Christmas promises to be a lot brighter in the downtown core this year with a crew of young business owners breathing new life into the annual Winter Lights Festival.
“We’re in high gear this year to bring back the true winter lights experience,” said Williams Lake Central Business Improvement Association chair Angie Delainey.
Delainey is one of several Winter Lights planning committee members whose goal it is to increase foot traffic in the downtown while kicking off the Christmas season and showcasing all the unique shops the downtown area has to offer.
“We are focusing on a pedestrian-friendly festival where people can come downtown to shop, celebrate and visit — we want to encourage people to shop local, spend local and celebrate local.”
An Old Fashioned Country Cottage Christmas is the festival’s theme, with free interactive family-friendly events taking place over three days — Dec. 4, 5 and 6.
The excitement kicks off on Friday, Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. with gingerbread building contests, an Ugly Christmas Sweater Scavenger Hunt, Festive Food and Drink Challenge, Children’s Activity Centre, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) events, Christmas carolling, Getting Back to Basics Workshops, cake walk commercials, a town crier, and captivating buskers.
“Many of our downtown merchants have agreed to stay open until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday night to extend the festival atmosphere,” Delainey said. “Shops will open again from 12-4pm on Sunday for the much anticipated Midday Madness.”
The Santa Claus Parade and light-up will get underway Saturday at 6 p.m. with a new parade route and free heritage photos with Santa at the Potato House from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
“And these are just a few of the events hosted in the downtown core throughout the weekend,” Delainey said. “We are creating an atmosphere that encourages people to hang out downtown.”
There will also be plenty of opportunities for giving, as the community is invited to help those in need with a food and clothing drive at the Festival Hub which will be located at the BIA office on the corner of 3rd and Oliver Street.
On Sunday at 11 a.m. festival winners will be revealed and at one minute to noon businesses will countdown for the Midday Madness event where stores will offer door crasher specials and red light sales every 30 minutes.
Delainey said the festival will have five main staging areas to offer a variety of indoor and outdoor events both Friday and Saturday — (1) Top Secret Events planned at Spirit Square on Oliver Street (2) Festival Information Hub and hot free chocolate located at the WLCBIA office at the corner of Third Avenue and Oliver Street, (3) Frantic Family Festivities located at the Red Tomato Pies building located at Fourth Ave North and Proctor Street. (4) Gingerbread House Making at the Eloquence location at 180 Yorston St. and (5) Children’s Activity Centre located at Realm of Toys located at 35 1st Ave South.
Walking paths between the four main staging events will be studded with buskers, selfie stations in an old fashioned setting, festive lighting, welcoming merchants, old fashioned Christmas window displays and more.
As of today, Delainey said, 37 downtown businesses are participating in the festival, with nine hosting events, 24 participating in the Ugly Christmas Sweater Scavenger Hunt, 22 in the Christmas Window Decorating contest, 4 in the Festive Food Challenge, 22 for the Cake Walk and 20 for Midday Madness.
Delainey reminds businesses that the deadline for merchants to sign up is Nov. 15.
To help businesses pull off the three-day affair, Delainey said the committee is creating a partnership with Lake City Secondary School to give grads a chance to get their work experience hours filled while learning about business.
“We hope to foster a strong partnership that will create employment and perhaps inspire new business owners,” she said.
To ensure the Winter Lights Festival has a smooth run, Lawni Langstaff has been contracted by the WLCBIA to help organize the festival. Lawni has been working with downtown merchants since early October to launch the event.
For more information about the Winter Lights Festival, including ways to participate, please email info@wlcbia or contact Lawni at 250-398-5717.
The Winter Lights Committee has received $2,500 from the City’s Economic Development Fund to support the WLCBIA’s shop local theme for the Winter Lights Festival which will be added to the budget received from the city, CRD, and CCACS to cover the costs of supplies, insurance, decoration, and advertising. The Festival is still seeking sponsorships for some of the more expensive events.
The WLCBIA’s goal is to make this an amazing downtown experience for all families free of charge, Delainey said, adding the festival planning committee is encouraging all businesses to light it up.
“We want the streets to shine with bright lights – think about decorating your buildings, windows, and surrounding area with twinkly lights and festive decor. We want businesses to create block parties and decorate together – after all the true meaning of Christmas is sharing and caring! “ said Delainey.
To add to the atmosphere the BIA Winter Lights Committee is working with the City to decorate as many lamp standards and trees as possible.
They will also have collection bins at participating businesses to recycle old decorations, craft odds and sods, lights, wrapping paper ends, and Ugly Christmas Sweaters. Visit the WLCBIA’s facebook page to sign up to the WLCBIA’s contact list to receive regular festival email updates and news about upcoming downtown events and opportunities.
Look for full Winter Lights Festival details in the Wednesday Dec. 2 Williams Lake Tribune where the Winter Lights Festival will be featured in a four-page spread.
Delainey adds: “Can’t wait to see you there.”