The Winter Festival of Lights has comes to an end for 2017/2018 season, having illuminated Niagara Falls from Nov. 18 to Jan 31.
This year’s festival was the biggest yet, received national attention on the Rick Mercer Report as well as being the back-drop of Canada’s 150 New Year’s Eve show, which was broadcast live on CBC.
Now that it’s all said and done, let’s take a look at the WFOL by the numbers.
Niagara Now talked with Tina Myers, executive director of WFOL, to find out just what it takes to run the festival.
Here are some quick facts:
- This year the festival raised more than $230,000. In 2016 it raised around $208,000. All funds raised go back into WFOL, as it is a non-profit organization.
- WFOL is the longest running festival of lights in Canada, running for 74 consecutive days this year.
- WFOL saw a 7.7 per cent increase in car traffic and a 8.8 per cent increase in bus traffic compared to 2016, with 76,594 cars and 491 buses driving illuminated route. The 2016 festival saw 71,098 cars and 453 buses.
- This year was the 35th annual WFOL. The first years only featured a few large scale projects, such as the Minolta Tower as a candle; The Skylon Tower as a giant Christmas tree; and the Best Western as a Christmas gift.
- The Festival has operated with $500,000 to $2-million per year for the last decade. Myers estimates the total to be around of $17 million in that time.
- The festival has six full-time employees and more than 100 volunteers who put in more than 4,000 volunteer hours to make the festival happen each year.
- This year’s festival season contained well over two million individual lights among 120 displays, not including the tree lighting.
- There were 100 displays in 2016.
- The illuminated festival route stretches eight-kilometres along the Niagara Parkway and into Dufferin Islands and the surrounding districts.
- This year’s festival contained 21 fireworks shows and 17 straight nights of laser light shows, with four laser shows per night for a total of 68 shows.
- WFOL was selected as the best festival event in Ontario at the Ontario Choice Awards in 2017. (attractionsontario.ca/ontarioschoice)
- The total economic impact of the OPG Winter Festival of Lights was estimated to be $48.8 million for the 2016/2017 season.
Q&A with Tina Myers:
How long have you been with WFOL? How long as executive director?
I have been with the Festival for 12 years and been the executive director for three years.
How does it feel, knowing your job is to ensure the city is decorated with beautiful lights every year?
I am an event junkie, I fell in love with Niagara Falls 12 years ago when I accepted the position at WFOL — to not only work for one of FEO's (Festival & Events Ontario) award-winning “Festivals of Distiction,” but also for the tourism industry that I love. It gives me great pleasure to work with an amazing team to illuminate the Falls and make family traditions for so many people.
There are more than two million lights now, do you know how many lights there were when the Festival first started?
The Festival started with the (tourism) industry coming together with a few large scale projects such as the Minolta Tower as a candle, the Skylon Tower as a Giant Christmas Tree, the Best Western as a Christmas gift and so many others. How many incandescent lights were used back then I am unsure.
When you first flick on the lights for the yearly display, is it a feeling of awe, or more of a feeling of relief?
It is always a little of both — awe that something you worked all year on can make so many people happy and relief that it all went on; maybe not always the way we planned it, but it always comes together.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?
Raising the money to top the previous years event. Wanting to be able to do so much more.
We all hear of one light on the string going out and the rest going with them … is that a problem for WFOL?
No, the commercial lighting that we use is different from the residential and we can replace sections. However, we do have issues with GFI's popping out entire sections … the team of electricians that come out at all hours to make sure that the Festival is running smoothly is amazing.
Is there a highlight of 2017 festival?
This year I would say that the new exhibits Passage and Prismatica were quite a hit. People loved interacting with them.
Anything else you want people to know?
There is a lot of passion that goes into planning and executing not only the events but the programming from the board, staff, volunteers, suppliers and sponsors. It is amazing the ownership these people have taken to each provide a little extra to make the Festival that much better.
Plans are already underway for next year, including two new interactive exhibits — Impulse and Loop from CREOS, which were featured at the Lumier festival in Montreal.
Myers said both exhibits “change in intensity the more visitors use them.”