Looking back on it, it's hard to remember much that was good about the winter of 2017.
It was cold, snowy, long and, oh yes, it brought a record turnout to the Airdrie Festival of Lights despite the fact the festival had to shut down for a week over Christmas, normally their busiest time of the month, because it was just too cold for anyone to wander around Nose Creek Park looking at lights.
Last week the Festival of Lights Society held its Annual General Meeting. Coordinator Michelle Pirzek reported to the group that over 60,000 people took in the festival which is a new record. That compares to the normal crowds of between 40,000 and 50,000. What does she attribute the bigger turnout to?
"The fact that we don't charge admission, it's simply by donation that you can come and enjoy an evening with your family, typically under $20. I think that played a big factor, especially this year. We know the economy's a little tough for people so it's nice that there's something for them to do that meets all budgets."
Pirzek believes there's another factor at play in the increased crowds. She says, "We've got good momentum right now. We've had some really great publicity in the last couple of years, we've hit some struggles, we've re-wired our displays. We added archways on the paths this year so we just became even more visible from Main Street. I think people are just looking for that outing with their family for sure."
Pirzek says the festival has been busy upgrading displays and panel boxes and establishing fund savings for replacement of their assets which has brought their budget better in line. Doing some of those things have ensured the festival's existence for years to come.
Pirzek made an announcement at the AGM that she says makes her as happy as a little kid who just received the puppy he always wanted for Christmas.
"This year we were able to purchase 18 brand new displays at a price of a little over $40,000. Having been on our wish list for many years, the 12 Days of Christmas is coming next year. That's like goosebumps exciting for us," she laughs.
That display will go up right along Main Street between the St. Paul's Catholic Church and the Totem Poles. Other things to be added for this December are a family of carollers, skating bears, and sliding penguins. Pirzek says the festival is in a "glow and grow stage."
The next project is a two year one to upgrade the infrastructure at Nose Creek Park. A Master Control Centre building will allow the group to bring all of their electrical into one building. That project will cost around $200,000 so Pirzek says they'll be seeking grants, sponsorships, and donations to help cover the cost.
Pirzek says financially the Festival of Lights is in the best position they have been in years. She also says that in 2017 they had more families volunteering with the festival than ever before.
Questions, comments or story ideas? Email us at [email protected]