Video notes: There were some exciting announcements in the Falls today as the 31st annual Winter Festival of Lights and Ontario Power Generation announced a three-year sponsorship agreement for Canada’s premier illumination festival.
From Nov. 9 through Jan. 31, the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights will turn Niagara Falls into a winter wonderland, with more than three million sparkling lights and much more. Bullet News attended today’s press conference and chatted with festival organizers.
ANNIE SILVESTER and LISA RIND/Bullet News
The first change to the festival’s appearance is already noticeable: A new title sponsor in Ontario Power Generation.
“We are now the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights, and we are proud to be so,” said festival executive director Dino Fazio.
More changes will be visible the very first day – Nov. 9 – during a day-long event kicking off at 2 p.m. in Queen Victoria Park.
Since Canada is recognizing the Year of Korea, in honour of the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War and the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between Canada and South Korea, the festival is hosting a special tribute to Canadian veterans of the Korean War, honouring them with special performances and commendations from the city.
“We hope to honour as guests at opening festivities Kyangkyun Chung, consular-general of the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea (Toronto), among other dignitaries,” said Fazio.
Among the bands and choirs performing will be Korean-themed entertainment and a number of other events, including food demonstrations, crafters and artisans, an exhibit from the Korean Tourism Organization and activities for children and families, including rides on the Polar Express Train and photos with Santa.
At about 6 p.m. on opening day, the official illumination ceremony will take place, when dignitaries gather to flip the switch to light up the displays.
In addition to the illumination of the Skylon Tower, this year’s festival includes the world’s largest Canadian-American flag display, the two-storey high Zimmerman Fountain, religions of the world displays and the hand-painted lantern displays and 70-metre Tunnel of Wish Lanterns from the award-winning Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival of South Korea.
“The lanterns will be amazing to see,” said festival chairman Kevin Harding. “They are constructed from a spot-welded frame covered in a nylon material, and hand painted,” he said. Their spectacular construction makes them beautiful to look at both during the daytime and after night falls.
“They are so much more than lanterns – they are works of art,” he said.
The lighting ceremony will be followed by on-stage entertainment, followed by a spectacular 15-minute fireworks display, at approximately 7 p.m.
With local performers and singers like Brooklyn Roebuck, YTV’s The Next Star season five winner, Mayor Jim Diodati was enthusiastic about the talent performing in the festival, especially for the opening festivities.
“We have such great local talent and energy,” he said. “We offer a buffet of entertainment – there is something for everyone.”
For a complete list of events, visit the festival’s website at www.wfol.com.
Keeping the festival in top running order is not only due to its board and executive, said Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights chairman Kevin Harding, but it is also due to its volunteers.
In fact, Harding said, “it’s the thousands of hours put in by hundreds of volunteers that keep things happening through the year, and ultimately make the festival possible.”
Janet Wilson, the festival’s volunteer co-ordinator, said there are still spots open for locals to have a hand in the festival’s operations.
“From opening night festivities to working Dufferin Islands or the TD Rink at the Brink, there are still volunteer opportunities out there.
“This could be an amazing experience,” said Wilson, who also encouraged teens who might need community service hours to sign up. “There are certainly opportunities for teenagers, too, especially for places like the TD Rink at the Brink,” she said.
To fill out a volunteer form online or find out more, visit the WFOL website at www.wfol.com/about-the-festival/volunteer.
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