Nearly two months after Cloverdale’s Art of Lights festival was expected to have its grand opening, the gates are still closed.
Billing itself as the first-annual Vancouver International Lantern Festival, the event promised vendors, food trucks, special live performances and “lanterns, like you’ve never seen before.”
After an initial delay, the grand opening was scheduled for Oct. 12. It was then delayed to Oct. 31. It has since been closed without a definitive new date for opening. A statement on the festival website simply states “it will take some time.”
Canada Chuansheng Media, the event organizer, has been issuing updates on the struggle to meet city standards since the first delay was announced in late October. At first, they cited heavy rain as the reason for cancellations of their Halloween party. On Oct. 31, they began to post about how they needed to wait for approval on building and electrical permits from the City of Surrey.
On Nov. 21, a statement published to the Canada Chuansheng Media Facebook page said that the construction crew has “made big electrical changes more than three times to meet the city hall’s requirements,” and that every time they believe they have completed the stipulations, more are added.
“But no matter how many times we have to change, we’ll change accordingly to make our event happen for everyone!” it reads.
Meanwhile, city staff say that they have been meeting with festival organizers since early June to try and help them navigate the permit process smoothly.
According to community enhancement manager Yalda Asadian, the organizer had originally planned to open the event on Sept. 28 to run every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Jan. 6, 2019.
In an emailed statement Asadian said, “City staff have been meeting regularly with the organizers since early June to assist with the logistics of the event.”
“Currently, the organizers have not fulfilled all the requirements needed from Buildings and Electrical Division,” she said. “The final approval for the event is contingent on the organizers receiving the appropriate permits from our Planning Department.”
Canada Chuansheng Media did not immediately return a request for comment.
Although the ticket purchasing site for the event states the festival will be open on Friday, Nov. 30, the Reporter was unable to confirm that date with the organizer.
The event has closed down Bill Reid Millennium Park in Cloverdale since September, and the large displays of giant Christmas trees, jack o’lanterns, dinosaurs and a 40-foot temple drew quite a bit of excitement from passerby at first. But for weeks now, local residents who pre-purchased tickets for the event as early as October have been expressing their frustration online.
In a Facebook post, Angela Lord said she has not asked for a refund for her tickets yet, as she tries her best to support events in Cloverdale. “They obviously put a lot of work, energy, time, and resources into this event. I feel bad for them because they are going to have huge losses due to all of these delays,” she wrote.
Other social media commenters weighed the pros and cons of asking for a refund as well. Writer Julia SchellMar said she had purchased tickets and had delayed starting the refund process. “But I think I will soon,” she said. “Whatever permits/approvals they are still needing may take months more. My kids drive past it and ask me when they’re taking it down since it’s ‘broken.’”