While there might be grand plans for the 2020 White Rock Festival of Lights, the founder says one key component of this year’s event is still missing – money.
“These are trying times,” Gary Gumley said, adding that the event will go on, but the level of extravagance is dependent on the organization’s success in raising funds.
To collect cash and brighten the event, the Festival of Lights is selling “Light Panels” to residents and businesses. With permission from BNSF, the foundation is selling the opportunity to reserve and decorate a section of the black fence between the white rock and the White Rock Museum.
As part of the program, the foundation is to provide a frame, lights and a customized sign. People who purchase the panel are allowed to decorate it however they wish. Decorating is to take place during a scheduled time slot, so as not to create unnecessary congestion on the promenade.
The idea replaces last year’s fundraising initiative, in which businesses and residents were allowed to purchase and decorate a tree in Memorial Park. That idea was scaled down to prevent large gatherings in the park.
Light Panels cost $150 for a location near the White Rock Museum and $100 for a panel on the pathway to the white rock. Panels can be purchased at wrfl.org
“If we can sell them out, we’re going to have enough money to put on all of the things that we want to do for the Festival of Lights,” Gumley said.
About 40 of the panels were sold in the first few days of sales going online.
“Obviously, the more we get, the more lights we can put up. And that’s the way we position it. All of the proceeds that we gain go to putting more lights on the waterfront. That’s why this year, we’ve been able to add all of these other components that we didn’t have last year. And hopefully we’ll just keep building out,” Gumley said.
Last February, the City of White Rock approved a scaled-up version of the Festival of Lights for this year. Council made the decision weeks before a global pandemic put a damper on annual celebrations.
The event is to be expanded not only in size, but the number of days it will be open to the public. This year, the event will extend from the white rock to Oxford Street and run from Nov. 28 to Jan. 9. Last year, the event was centralized in Memorial Park and ran for 29 days.
Key decorations in this year’s event include two 30-foot tree aluminum trees (one at Oxford Street and one at Finlay Street) and a 38-foot tall artificial tree in Memorial Park.
Another change this year, due to COVID-19, is how the event is being marketed. A number of Christmas-related events have been cancelled this year in Metro Vancouver, including Coquitlam’s Lights at Lafarge, and it’s expected many annual craft fairs and markets will not be held.
Marketing for the White Rock Festival of Lights is to be focused on having a people stroll through the park and order takeout food from businesses.
“We’re really encouraging drive-through, walk-through, pick up takeout food and go home. That’s the whole marketing message that we want,” Gumley said. “We’re trying to get people to support the local businesses down there by placing a takeout food order and just taking it home with them after they’ve come down to see the lights.”
During last year’s Festival of Lights, the city held a ‘Jingle Bell White Rock’ family event and encouraged people to visit the waterfront for a ceremonial lighting of the lights. That won’t be taking place this year, nor will any type of additional entertainment be provided by the city.