The Big Bright Light Show
by Lillie Normile
“Magical”. That was the word from Lyndsay Tee, Economic Development Coordinator for the Town of Napanee, when asked to describe 'The Big Bright Light Show'. The Lighting Ceremony and Block Party signal the beginning of the holiday season in Napanee. Part of Dundas Street is closed to vehicular traffic.Children and adults crowd into the street waiting for the lights to be plugged in by the Mayor and members of council, bathing the downtown in bright lights.
Live local music, hot chocolate stands and photos with Santa are offered. All of this is made possible by generous sponsors, TransCanada, Town of Greater Napanee, and Downtown Greater Napanee BIA.
For the past five years the town has been ablaze with more than 400,000 colourful LED lights, cascading down the facade of downtown businesses, from mid November until the end of January. The show is the brain child of James Tinlin, General Manager, Community/Corporate Services for the town.
Marg Isbester, Deputy Mayor of the Town of Napanee told me that her first reaction to the suggestion of the light show was “No, not on our historic buildings”. After viewing pictures of other municipalities she was convinced that this would be of great value to the town and not hurt the historic buildings in any way. Today she is an enthusiastic supporter of the event. The lights draw photography groups to the community to capture the display. People come to view the lights, shop and dine. For most families it is the kickoff for the holiday season.
Town staff, council and a host of volunteers work to make this a special event. In late September crews begin to string the lights in order to be ready. In the first year all the lights had to be rolled and put on spools; 3 weeks work. Every year since the process has been fine tuned. Before the big night the lights are tested and timers installed; to avoid any unpleasant surprises for the excited crowd.
Isbester also spoke of the large wreath on the County Court House and the huge iron tree on the Market Square. The lights on the tree are synchronized to music and families are often seen with children dancing around the tree in the evenings.
The goal is to expand the number of participating businesses and to have more displays around the town in places such as the Conservation Park and Springside Park; encouraging people to drive around the town taking in the holiday magic. Isbester says more animated displays are needed and she would like to see the displays expand north of downtown; perhaps with decorated real trees. A real tree will be installed at the Corner Garden (Centre and Bridge Streets) this year.
A Home Edition has been added for 2016. All houses in Greater Napanee decorated with holiday cheer entered by December 16th, 2016 have the opportunity to win one of the top three cash prizes.
Jefta Monster, co-owner of Starlet, with his wife Cat, says that the Big Bright Light Show creates positive energy and draws people from out of town to explore what else Napanee offers.
Ellena Fleury, owner of Ellena's Cafe on Dundas Street says there are positive comments even months after the event. While she has been working late in the cafe, preparing for catering jobs, there have been people walking around the street admiring the lights. There is a certain community spirit awakened when the lights go on. Ellena praises the efforts of the community as it works together with council, BIA, sponsors and volunteers. Each year there is hope that more businesses will participate in lighting up their store fronts. “The Big Bright Light Show is another piece of the puzzle in what makes Napanee; a place to live, visit and shop”,says Ellena. Enthusiasm is evident in her every word.
Walking among the crowd the spirit of the season can be felt. The cool weather promises winter is not far off and cheeks become rosy. Children are bundled in wagons and strollers hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa. Adults wearing cozy toques, scarves, mitts and jackets stamp their feet to keep warm.
Family, friends and neighbours meet, chat, laugh and share the excitement of the evening. It is a time for community bonding.
From almost any road into town the glow of the lights can be seen like fire light in the sky drawing the viewer to explore the streets. It is indeed a 'magical' scene and one that shouldn't be missed. Take a drive into Napanee to experience the Big Bright Light Show before the end of January 2017.