The lights strung, the decorations are up, and spirits are high as Ladysmith prepares for the 32nd annual Light Up Festival of Lights tonight.
At Oyster Harbour Seniors Community, Light Up is a chance for residents to participate in the community they helped build. Residents will join the Light Up parade in the Oyster Harbour shuttle bus decorated by Roy Mckee and Janet Gray.
Phillis Timothy, Wilma Ostle, Kay Rozzano, and Ralph Carlson have lived in Ladysmith their entire lives. Each of them remembers the first Light Up, 32 years ago.
“We saw it all get started, then eventually they came from all over — bus loads — and they’re still coming,” Timothy said.
Rozzano said there were around 300 – 500 people at the first Light Up. Last year’s Light Up saw over close to 30,000 people according to RCMP estimates.
“They said they have to cut the parade down this year, because there’s too many floats wanting to come in,” Rozzano said.
Collectively, the group estimated about 10 floats were in the first parade. They remember floats from Ladysmith service clubs like the Kinsmen, the Eagles, the Healthcare Auxiliary, the Native Daughters, and Ladysmith Fire Rescue.
This will be Oyster Harbour’s third year in the Light Up parade, and they’re just as excited as they were the first time.
“By the time we got down to the Wigwam I was ready to run up and kiss Santa Claus I was so excited,” Carlson said.
Each of the residents shared their favourite thing about Light Up.
“Oh gosh, that’s pretty hard to say, because it’s all wonderful,” Timothy said. “All the people, and all that. To see all the busloads coming in, it’s pretty exciting.”
“Being on the bus, and waving to the people outside. We were all together, singing on the bus, doing things like that. It’s a happy time,” Ostle said.
“Everybody’s in a happy mood. All the kids wave for Santa. All your worries and troubles go out the window,” Rozzano said.
“I like being in the parade. I’ve been doing it for over 30 years. I used to cook at the Eagles, we ended up with 500-600 spaghetti dinners a night. A lot of dishes I tell yah’,” Carlson said.
The group expressed gratitude for all the people who have come together over the years to make Light Up happen, both in the past, and today. They look forward to taking part in this year’s Light Up parade, and hope to see many smiling faces lining 1st Avenue.
“Getting to be in this parade, to play with purpose, and getting to remember the past, and getting to be part of the now — getting to be a part of the community they created is pretty incredible,” Oyster Harbour recreation coordinator Angelina Passarelly said.
Ladysmith light-up need-to-knows
Ladysmith’s famous Festival of Lights — the Island’s biggest Christmas light-up — happens tonight, Thursday, Nov. 28.
It starts with a community spaghetti dinner at 3 p.m. at the Eagles Hall ($10 adults and kids under eight, $5), there’s a Christmas craft fair at the Aggie Hall at 4 p.m. and street entertainment and food concessions open and onstage entertainment will continue until 6:15 p.m.
Then the place goes crazy as everyone gets into position along First Avenue downtown to welcome Santa Claus, who shows up at 6:30 p.m. to light up downtown. Following that, there’s a light-up parade starting at 6:45 p.m.
After the parade, at Aggie Hall, there’s the light-up at the hall, Bob Stuart Park, and the Chuck Perrin Christmas Tree, along with spectacular fireworks.
First Avenue will be closed to traffic from 3 p.m. until after the light-up. Organizers ask that people please do not bring pets downtown for the light-up.
This is a hugely popular event, so unless you plan to arrive really early, be ready to walk some distance from your car to get to your viewing spot.