Festival of Lights

A pre-COVID edition of the Summerland Festival of Lights.

In the face of ongoing health restrictions, Summerland’s flagship Christmas event will be scaled back this year but extended to run over three nights in December.

Council on Tuesday got its first look at the plan and unanimously approved a $10,000 grant to the Summerland Chamber of Commerce to run the event, now dubbed Light Up Summerland.

Prior to the pandemic, the annual Festival of Lights annually drew upwards of 10,000 people into the downtown core for a single night of revelry.

But the event was cancelled outright in 2020 due to restrictions on public gatherings, so organizers from the Summerland Chamber of Commerce put together a self-guided tour of local light displays to help spread Christmas cheer.

Based on the popularity of that self-guided tour, the chamber is planning to make it the focus of a Saturday, Dec. 4, kick-off event that may even include a virtual ceremony during which local officials flip the switch on downtown light displays.

Tour maps will guide drivers around Summerland and conclude with a spin through the downtown core, where carolers and a roaming Santa will help get people into the spirit and food trucks and other activities will be available from 5-9 p.m.

The following two Saturdays, Dec. 11 and 18, will see holiday-themed entertainment in the downtown core from 3-7 p.m., along with Sip n Shop events during which businesses partner with local wineries to offer tastings to customers.

Coun. Erin Carlson said last year’s self-guided tours were a hit and she’s glad to see them return.

“It was really exciting and people came from all over the place – and they didn’t just come on one night to our town, so I think you’ll see great value by promoting this over a three-week period and people will continue all the way up to Christmas coming and looking and driving by lights,” said Carlson.

Chamber president Ron Kubek described the new Light Up Summerland as striking a fine balance between respecting health rules and boosting local businesses.

“We think that it’s going to be one of the things that will let people see there’s a safe way we can go about providing that Christmas spirt in Summerland in a COVID environment,” said Kubek.

The chamber initially asked council in August for $30,000 to run this year’s festival as a one-night event similar to past years, but local politicians balked at that request given the uncertain state of the pandemic.

Council was also asked Tuesday to approve a separate $30,000 contribution to the 2022 edition of Light Up Summerland, but instead voted unanimously to defer the matter until budget time so it can be considered alongside other such requests.

The festival was organized for years by the chamber under a broad, $225,000-a-year contract with the district to operate the visitors’ information centre and handle economic development.