Festive Light Displays at
December 31st 2019
Bison 3D Light Display
Queen Victoria Park
pictorial of festive displays during the Winter Festival of Lights
History of the Festival of Lights
Queen Victoria Park
The Festival of Lights has its roots dating back to the early 1900's.
In the early years as electricity became available, the small business districts strung coloured lights from buildings across streets to attract shoppers. The era of the lights festival had begun.
In 1918, Niagara Falls, New York became the first to illuminate the American Falls and the upper rapids by the location of spotlights above and below the waterfall.
The Festival of Lights night parade originated in Niagara Falls, New York where a festival was held in June of each year. The parade consisted of a number of floats adorned with coloured lights. Officials from Niagara Falls, Ontario were later invited to join the festivities. They did so by contributing several floats, marching bands and a number of city dignitaries.
In 1925, the Festival of Lights became a truly International affair with festivities taking place in both cities.
On May 25th 1925, the twenty-four new carbon arc illumination lights which were mounted on the Ontario Power Company surge tank in Queen Victoria Park were lit for the first time. These lights produced the power of 1,320,000,000 candles. A Festival of Lights celebration was planned to coincide with the official dedication of this light system.
The official ceremony took place on June 8th 1925 and was held to celebrate the first permanent night illumination of the Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls. The celebration included a light parade in Niagara Falls, New York followed by an International ceremony in the middle of the Upper Steel Arch Bridge which was attended by many Canadian and American dignitaries. Following this ceremony, the lights were turned on to illuminate the Falls with many thousands of spectators looking on. The light parade and illumination of the Falls became the predecessor of the current Festival of Lights.
Because of the success of the first festival, a second festival followed in 1926. It was known as the Festival of Lights. This time a gigantic parade was organized by both cities of Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario.
The City of Niagara Falls, Ontario entered an electrically lighted float on which rode "Miss Canada" - Winnifred Stokes of the Evening Review staff. This float was lighted by 57 electrical lights bearing the inscription "Miss Canada" on each side. Overhead lights were focused on Miss Stokes.
At the onset of the world wide depression the festival was not continued beyond 1926. Although the festival was a financial success, organizers felt the money would be better used to help the less fortunate in the community.
The City of Niagara Falls, New York began the modern era of the Festival of Lights in 1980.
In December of 1982, the executive of the Niagara Falls (Ontario) Visitor & Convention Bureau, authorized the planning of a Canadian version of the Festival of Lights.
The Canadian Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls, Ontario premiered between November 17th 1983 and February 26th 1984. Under the direction of Mr. George Bailey of the Niagara Parks Commission, the first festival had a budget of only $18,000.
In March of 1985, the City of Niagara Falls (Ontario) changed the name of their event from the Festival of Lights to the Winter Festival of Lights in order to accentuate the winter theme.
The Winter Festival of Lights continues to evolve. In addition to the nightly illumination of the Falls of Niagara, many hundreds of street and park light displays containing tens of thousands of lights abound on both sides of the border. It has grown each year with added attractions, concerts and dazzlingly beautiful light displays which now rival the illumination of the Falls themselves as the premier tourist attraction.
In the Summer of 2001, the City of Niagara Falls, New York announced the end of their Festival of Lights citing financial difficulties.
In 1992, the World of Disney joined the Festival of Lights in Queen Victoria Park they have contributed the "Enchantment of Disney Lights Display" featuring more than twenty animated light displays of favourite Disney cartoon classics.
In 1998, a Night Parade was introduced in Queen Victoria Park featuring a dozen electrically lighted floats. The electric night parade has become an enormous success. Many new lights are displayed throughout Queen Victoria Park and Dufferin Islands each year.
In 2005, the Winter Festival of Lights committee decided not to fund the New Year's Eve Concert in Queen Victoria Park due to financial constraints. The monies normally spent of this event would be directed to creating and presenting more festive lights displays. The Niagara Parks Commission in association with the City of Niagara Falls and other tourism partners took over the planning and presentation of the New Years Eve Party in Queen Victoria Park.
In 2006, the Winter Festival of Lights committee decided to cancel the weekly Night Parade of Lights which consisted of more than a dozen festively lighted floats after eight years. In doing so the committee has committed $250,000 to new lights, displays and events.
In 2010, the Festival of Lights budget is estimated at $1.4 million dollars yearly with the City of Niagara Falls funding the largest portion at $342,000.
administration costs and wages of the Festival of Lights staff amounted
approximately $636,000. The City of Niagara Falls yearly grant to
the Festival of Lights is not sufficient to cover the costs of
administration and executive wages alone. Marketing was allotted
$205,000 while Lights and Maintenance was allotted $155,922.94.
In 2010, the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights was be known as the CAA Winter Festival of Lights. The CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) had agreed to sponsor the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights for a minimal period of 2-3 years, with a provision to extend their sponsorship beyond this time frame.
The 2013-2014 Festival of Lights had a new look and new sponsorship. The festival was now known as the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights. CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) had ended their two year sponsorship. Festival management had also ended their long standing relationship with the World of Disney light displays. All Disney light displays will no longer be displayed.
According to festival management the focus on new lighting displays will be from South Korea commemorating the 60th anniversary of the armistice marking the end of the Korean conflict and to recognize the Federal Governments designation of 2013 as the Year of Korea in Canada, by celebrating through a variety of new lighting, programming and special events with Korean delegations on NPC property.
The 2013-2014 festival will feature 16 beautiful, hand-painted lantern displays from the award-winning, Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival in South Korea along with a 70-metre Tunnel of Wish Lanterns. The Jinju lantern displays showcase iconic representations of South Korean culture.
The current annual budget for the Festival of Lights is approximately $1.3 - 1.5 million dollars. The primary sponsor of the festival will fund nearly $210,000 of this amount while the City of Niagara Falls provides an annual grant of $342,000. Tourism grants and local tourist business improvement areas supplement this budget.
Niagara Parks Commission staff worked together and helped with lighting 35 new wire framed trees to provide some presence given the absence of the Disney displays in the Victoria Park area.
The 2013-2014 Festival of Lights was unremarkable and for many disappointing.
During the summer of 2014, Dino Fazio, the general manager of the WFOL left the organization.
The 2014-2016 season of the WFOL was co-managed by a group of directors taking a fresh approach and direction to renewing this world class festival. The Korean Lantern's will not be returning. The Rink at the Brink is not returning.
The 2014-2016 season the Festival of Lights was shortened beginning after Remembrance Day and ending on January 12th 2016. The festival also unveiled a number of brand new illuminations including 3D Canadian Wildlife displays and projection lighting that illuminated the trees in Dufferin Islands animating the moraine with the lights choreographed music to create an audio/visual experience.
Queen Victoria Park
The Winter Fireworks program was being presented by Fallsview Casino Resort and featured fireworks shows every Friday night at 9pm throughout the OPG Winter Festival of Lights season plus additional shows during the holidays.
Many former 2D animated light displays were not displayed leaving a substantial absence throughout Queen Victoria Park, and along the Niagara Parkway from Bender Hill southward to Dufferin Islands. The Niagara Parks Commission purchased $100,000 in additional lights that had been throughout the park including a number of steel frame and rope lighted Christmas trees to fill the gap.
The WFOL have installed all new lighting displays and colour schemes at Dufferin Islands. Unfortunately, many of the former 2D light displays were not utilized leaving many empty areas throughout the park. Before the end of the festival a number of 2D displays were erected in haste.
2016/2017 display at
Dufferin Islands will boast more lights — 400,000 compared to last
year’s 340,000 — and a 10-foot tall Wooly Mammoth will be added to the
3D animal collection. The nearby Toronto Power Building with also
feature new lighting.
The Festival will
continue to be sponsored by Ontario Power Generation (OPG) for another 3
3D Wolf & Deer at
The New Year’s Eve Party in Queen Victoria Park
Year’s Eve Party in Queen Victoria Park is an expensive proposition.
Although it is not sponsored by the Winter Festival of Lights, it is the
crown in the jewel of this festival season. The City of Niagara Falls
and the Niagara Parks Commission are joint organizers. During the mid
2000's the yearly concert was broadcast by CHCH Television of Hamilton
Ontario until 2007 before being replaced by the Global Television
Network of Toronto, Ontario in 2008.
Canada - $500,000
plus over $1.3 million in advertising and promotional support
Each year the New Year's Eve Party in the Park costs approximately $3,000,000 dollars.
Global Television stopped their network coverage of this festival after 2014 because of financial constraints and rising concert costs.
The annual concert continued in 2015 and 2016 without national television coverage. It was the first time in 25 years the concert wasn’t broadcast across the province or country. In 2017, portions of the concert was added to the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) to their cross-country New Year's Eve broadcast.
Queen Victoria Park
RINK at the
In 2009, the Festival of Lights committee chose to build and operate the Rink at the Brink ice skating rink opposite the Table Rock in Queen Victoria Park as part of the Festival of Lights celebration. The rink is 36 meters by 18 meters in size. The cost of this project is approximately $700,000. Skates are available for rental.
In 2010, the Festival of Lights committee chose to erect the Rink at the Brink but they decided not to erect the roof structure in order to allow skaters to face the open elements of the weather and the mist from the falls.
The Rink at the Brink has been a regular Festival of Lights attraction since 2009.
For the 2014-2016 festival the Rink at the Brink has been discontinued by the current WFOL committee. There have been discussions that the rink may be resurrected in future years at a different location that would provide much better weather conditions. The rink had always been a financial failure. Mist from the nearby Falls often forced the rink to close more often than not.
Queen Victoria Park
Festival Lights Displayed daily from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.
3D Moose & Water
Schedule Of Events
Generation Winter Festival of Lights
Queen Victoria Park
3D Bison (Buffalo)
Date last updated: November 07, 2019
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