A local committee is hoping to put Nelson on the map with another annual festival, but instead of attracting musical lovers the Festival of Lights would enhance the city’s Christmas spirit.
The committee, with a contribution from the city’s Spurway fund, is hoping to “significantly enhance” the existing December 7 Christmas tree lighting ceremony in addition to encouraging businesses to stay open later during the weeks leading up to December 25 and offering a best dressed window competition.
“We are requesting $30,000 come out of the Spurway fund,” said Festival of Lights committee member Joy Barrett. “This money was originally left to the City over 10 years ago with the vision it would be spent on lights and decorations for the city.”
Barrett said there is about $65,000 in the fund and the committee is asking for about half. The money would be used for purchasing the lights and installation.
In a letter to mayor and council, event organizer Maureen Crawford expressed concern about the perception the city gives to tourists around celebrating Christmas.
“Two years ago I stood behind a young woman who was visiting Nelson during the holiday period. She asked the cashier why Nelson doesn’t celebrate Christmas?” read the letter. “This was not the first time, I or indeed many other small business owners and residents had heard something similar.”
Barrett said the committee is working on putting together a proposal to be presented to council at the October 22 committee of the whole meeting.
The committee has been working with the City on a detailed proposal and is addressing concerns expressed so far.
“The City does seem receptive,” said Barrett. “I do believe they see the value in this from a local and tourism standpoint. Especially the fact this could be quite a large economic generator in terms of bringing tourists in to shop.”
One of the concerns expressed to date around the Festival of Lights project has been around maintenance.
The committee is also looking at what city resources will be needed around installation of the lights.
“In certain cases we would have to rely on city staff for help with installation especially with the two large trees on Baker Street which would require people to get quite high up,” said Barrett. “We would need to rely on city public works to do that. Either that or the fire department. The rest of the installation would likely be done by the city or a combination of city staff and volunteers. We do have a large volunteer committee that is going forward.”
In addition to the lights and encouraging later business hours over the holiday season, the committee hopes to encourage community involvement around a Best Elf competition for children to be judged on December 7 and to promote the initiative locally and regionally to encourage shoppers to come to Nelson.