Author Elaine H. MacDonald has written a history of the first thirty years of Festival of Lights. (Mike Gregory Photo).

Ladysmith Festival of Lights’ 30-year history detailed in new book

A local author worked for months conducting interviews and reading through primary source material in the Ladysmith Archives to complete a new book published by Festival of Lights telling the first 30 year history of the widely-known holiday community event.

Elaine H. MacDonald and her husband moved to Ladysmith from Victoria in 2012 and from there quickly became involved in the Festival of Lights, setting and taking down lights.

“I’d driven past Ladysmith many times on the highway and thought that looks like a nice place. It has a good feel,” she said.

A self-described “hobby writer” for most of her life, from dabbing in poetry and short stories and even an opera libretto, she’s now found more time after retiring to Ladysmith to independently publish her first novel last year called All of These Secrets.

FOL colleagues aware of her success, current director and past president Greg Edwards pitched the idea to write the 30 year history.

“I just started going through all the information that was available. Mostly minutes of old meetings but going to the Ladysmith Archives, where the volunteers were very helpful to me,” she said.

She was helped along by interviewing those who have been involved in the success of Festival as well as reading through older edition of the Chronicle.

“So many people ask how does little Ladysmith do this and so I thought I want to create a history not just for Ladysmith but for somebody in another town who might be curious,” she said.

“Really it comes down to make a plan, raise money and turn on the lights and that’s really the process over and over again.”

But really it’s also all about the volunteers and the book, which is organized by year, includes a trip down memory lane with photos from years past and even a copy of the invitation sent out in 1989 to turn on the lights.

“The community volunteerism in Ladysmith is phenomenal and it’s partially because we have a core of ‘active seniors’,” said MacDonald, referring to the geography of the town.

“You have that core of people who have the time to do this and the health to do it.”

The author spent about three months of intense research before sitting down at the computer to start writing and the manuscript was finished in August.

“I found the whole thing really fascinating. Filling in the pieces of the puzzle that were missing was part of it,” she said.

“If there was one way to sum up the reason why Festival keeps on happening it’s that people are willing enough, healthy enough and tolerant enough to overlook the challenges and to carry on.”

The book is for sale for $25 at Pharmasave, Uforik Computers , the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce 49th Parallel Grocery Ladysmith, or from any Festival of Lights member.

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