The weather put a damper on the numbers, but not on the spirit of those who came out for the 24th annual Light Up.
Vancouver Island was hit with heavy wind and rain on event day last Thursday. A number of floats missed the parade due to the weather, and ferries were cancelled to and from the Island.
A possible cancellation of the fireworks was averted at the last minute as the wind died down briefly.
“I think we did very, very well,” said festival emcee and major organizer Duck Paterson, who had to change three times because he kept getting soaked by the rain. “It was amazing.”
Paterson said it would have been a shame to have cancelled the fireworks, which are sponsored by the Ladysmith and District Credit Union at a cost of more than $10,000. He estimated the turnout to be about 13,000 people, down from the usual 20,000. About 61 floats made it into the parade.
Even with the lower turnout and constant stress of the weather, Paterson had nothing negative to say about this year’s event.
“Considering everything, it was probably one of the most successful,” he said.
“Considering how the day shaped up and the weather being doom and gloom.
“And the volunteers, they were amazing for showing up.”
The lights and fireworks were a hit for the kids, even with cold and damp weather.
“I liked it,” said Ryelee Simard, 6, about the fireworks and parade. “It was cold and I had to put on mitts and I used the umbrella.”
Her mother, Aleasha agreed.
“It was good, we thought it was better than last year’s,” she said. “It was too loud though, I prefer fireworks that’s not too loud.”
Carson Mullin drove in from Chemainus. He said this was the first time he’s been to Light Up in about five years.
“Coming back really gave me that warm feeling of Vancouver Island pride,” Mullin said. “It costs quite a bit of money to do all that and it was great.”
Cole Battie is from Ladysmith, but drove up from Victoria, where he is studying. He said the driving condition was horrible because of the weather, but that wasn’t going to stop him.
“I try hard to get here for this every year,” Battie said, adding that he had a great time. “I’m glad I made the trip.”
RCMP Cpl. Doug Brayley said the crowd was well-behaved overall.
Two young girls were arrested for shoplifting, one was arrested on an outstanding warrant from the Lower Mainland and two people, who were under the influence, were arrested for causing a disturbance.
“Other than that, everything went fairly well,” Brayley said, adding that there usually aren’t problems at this annual family event.
“The liquor store closed early, which lost them business, but in turn it quelled a lot of potential problems from happening.”
Paterson said the Festival of Lights committee and local businesses are well aware that next year is the silver anniversary for Light Up and there has already been talks that next year needs to be best.
“We are very cognizant of it because of it being 25 years and the sponsors are aware of it,” Paterson said.
“It’s something we are already talking about, that it has to be that much better and that much more special.”
The lights illuminating downtown Ladysmith will continue shining every night until January 15.