New venue for tree-lighting fest

CITY CENTRE – If there’s one thing that Surrey residents look forward to each holiday season, it’s getting lit up.

Since 2008, the city has been holding its annual Tree Lighting Festival where north of 10,000 people come out to see the 55-foot tree glow with lights. The festival began in Holland Park but has seen most of its activities in recent years on the plaza of Surrey’s Central City Shopping Centre.

This year, however, the city’s iconic tree will be moving venues to Surrey’s new City Hall Plaza and Mary Rukavina, the city’s manager of special events and filming, expects to see twice the number of people this time around.

"This year, with all of the programming we have throughout the day, we’re hoping to hit from 15 to 20,000 people," she told the Now.

The free event typically takes place around the end of November. This year, the Tree Lighting Festival takes place on Saturday (Nov. 22).

Central City plaza will still be hosting free events and activities, along with the ones going on at the new City Hall Plaza, and the two locations will be linked by a complimentary trolley bus.

"We’re kind of joining forces and partnering up with Central City mall… there’s still activities on our plaza and atrium," Rukavina assured.

As far as city-wide holiday activities go, Surrey’s Tree Lighting Festival is unique in the Lower Mainland.

"I don’t know if other communities are doing something like the specific lighting of a tree," Rukavina said. "We’ve been proud of this particular event because I

think in B.C., it is one of the tallest trees and it definitely is a signature event in Surrey."

The festival typically boasts musical performances and other goodies, but this year there’s even more hyping up the event. A traditional Christmas market will be happening in the City Hall atrium, with artisan booths and food trucks. There will even be stars from the cast of Disney’s Frozen performing on the "Snowflake" stage.

As for rides, there will be a ferris wheel and a merry-go-round to keep the little ones entertained.

"There’s something for everybody – kids, seniors, youth, you name it," she said.

Kicking off at 11 a.m. at Central City mall and at noon at Surrey City Hall, activities include a letters to Santa station, a story-time igloo, road hockey and photos with Santa. Headlining the event is 21-year-old singer/songwriter Alyssa Reid and children’s folk singer Fred Penner. The tree lighting ceremony will take place at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.

But with all these activities, what’s the most important thing to take away from the festival?

"I think it’s just bringing the community together," Rukavina said. "Making sure that there’s something for the holiday season for families and for the city that kicks something off for the community is why we do it."