Festival of Lights has been popular Summerland tradition

Launch of festive season started more than three decades ago

For more than three decades, Summerland has welcomed the festive season with the annual Festival of Lights.

“The Festival of Lights was conceived 32 years ago by four Summerland businessmen, Jerry Hallquist, Art Sewell, Allan Fabbi and myself under the umbrella of the Downtown Business Improvement Area,” said Bruce Hallquist. “At the time, it was the only festival of its kind in the Okanagan”.

Current Mayor Toni Boot remembers the early days of the festival.

“Having grown up in Summerland, then returning to raise my two sons, I have attended many Festival of Lights celebrations,” she said. “Some festivals have seen bone-chilling temperatures, while others have enjoyed relatively mild weather. For me, a light snow always adds an extra touch of magical perfection to the event.”

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Summerland marks holiday season with 31st annual Festival of Lights

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From the start, the festival was popular.

“Festival of Lights was an instant success with an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people in attendance for the first event”, Hallquist said. “It continues to thrive today and is not only a premier holiday event for Summerland, but for the entire Okanagan.”

To get the event started the inaugural Festival of Lights committee sold strings of Christmas lights to every merchant and building owner in the downtown area.

Approximately 25,000 lights were sold that first year.

The District of Summerland became involved and decorated the light standards on the streets and other public buildings in the downtown area.

The Festival of Lights now has many events spanning several weeks.

The Light Up Summerland downtown event, on Nov. 29, is the largest single-day festival in the Okanagan with 12,000 to 14,000 people expected to attend.

The Summerland Chamber of Commerce produces the event for the District of Summerland.

“I could not believe the size and scope of the event,” said David Hull, executive director of the chamber.

“Last year was my first Light Up event and I was blown away! It is really a magical event that brings not only Summerland folks together but also our neighbours from up and down the valley. The atmosphere is so positive and vibrant.”

Additional information on Light Up Summerland and other Festival of Lights events can be found at summerlandlightup.com and on the Summerland Festival of Lights Facebook page.

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