Thousands huddled together all along on First Avenue last Thursday to watch as Ladysmith continued three decades of holiday tradition with its annual Light Up celebration.
The weather conditions couldn’t have been more perfect for late November and the town was already bustling by late afternoon.
Some locals even ditched work early to beat the traffic that comes with a celebration that triples the town’s population on the third Thursday of every November – this year Light Up was held on the fifth week.
“Absolutely super. Good crowd, biggest parade ever, the Credit Union fireworks were amazing, again. The entertainment was great – I think the Light it Up song went over really well,” said Festival president Duck Paterson.
Ladysmith RCMP told the Chronicle that a whopping 31,304 people were on hand as Santa safely landed his sleigh and climbed the ladder to the RBC Royal Bank.
There, a giant switch waited for the master of ceremonies to electrify the town with over 200,000 lights – many converted to LEDs in recent years.
“Santa had a great time and he texted me when he left and said to congratulate the whole town and I’ll be back next year,” Paterson added.
The contribution of Light Up’s visionary Bill Fitzpatrick, who died earlier this year, was also acknowledged at several points in the evening.
“I usually ran into him at least Light Up day and it was knowing that he wasn’t here , but that he was here,” Paterson said. “Bill was a perfectionist and Bill was into lights, camera, action and he’s pulled it off.”
Once again, the Light Up was also pulled off by a core group of 11 of dedicated volunteers who meet throughout the year to plan the event and the dozens of others who help with hanging the lights, setting up the installations and then taking it all down at the end of the six weeks.
“The core group are very dedicated. They live and breath this thing,” Paterson said. “Nanaimo has bathtubs, Chemainus has the murals, Parksville has their sandcastles, Ladysmith has the lights and I don’t know how other communities do it but we do it with volunteers and it wouldn’t happen without them.”
Every year Light Up holds a special memory and this year it might just be the new Locie #11 installation created by Doug West and his team at Ladysmith Marine Services.
“That’s our first real Ladysmith decoration,” Paterson said. “It’s also our first animated decoration – it has history with it.”
But let’s also not forget the parade, with over 70 entries and too many highlights to mention.
However, children’s eyes beamed and parents reached for their cellphones as the dazzling cement truck two crane trucks from Powwell River were the last to reach the end of the parade route at Aggie Hall.
“For people to go to that expense so that others can have a good time it fascinates me,” Paterson said.