Residents of Lodge on 4th have so many cherished Festival of Lights memories from the past three decades but are now set to make new ones as they participate in the parade for the first time ever on Thursday.
Seniors, staff, volunteers and families will accompany a bus decorated with LED Christmas lights in the number 11 spot all the way down First Ave, waving to the thousands of spectators.
“All of our kids are coming too and we’re going to be rocking it out there,” said Tracey McKee, the site leader at the care home.
Ralph Carlson, 75, Wilma Ostle, 91, and Kay Rozzano, 97, shared their early memories of Light Up with the Chronicle a day before big event.
Rozanna remembers being introduced to the founder of FOL Bill Fitzpatrick by Chuck Perrin, another integral figure in getting things going in the early years.
“I remember the year we had a total blackout,” Rozanno said. “It was a blackout from Nanaimo to Chemainus…everything was dark and the the hydro guys worked for two hours and at six o’clock we got our lights on just in Ladysmith.”
With the promise of a meal prior to the event, “bus loads of people” would flock to town, said Ostle.
“There use to be ten or twelve buses that would come all the time and they’d park out all along the front of the Eagles (Hall) and they’d have spaghetti supper and then walk back out to watch,” added Carlson.
Others visitors who came by car could take a park-and-ride service.
“You’d park your car down at Transfer Beach and then they’d have a mini bus and they drove you up to town. You could give them two dollars but it was all by donations,” Rozzano said, adding that one of her favourite things was always “walking down the street with popcorn.”
The parade in the early days was populated with organizations such as the Kinsmen, Native Daughters and Health Care Auxiliary among others.
It was also less than half of the size, with 75 floats set to take part in Thursday’s parade.
And while LEDs are becoming the new standard, things weren’t always so energy efficient.
“They were the big old outdoor lights so if you did your whole building when you turned them on all at once you should have seen the old power metre going around,”said Carlson.
Ostle’s husband was a volunteer firefighter in Ladysmith and did the heavy lifting over the years with getting the lights into the trees. She in turn volunteered with the spaghetti dinner.
“Light Up was always a big thing,” she said. “I remember one year Santa was up on top of the Wigwam and just before he threw the switch it started to snow and it was really neat.”
Now, Ostle is excited to be seeing the parade from a new vantage point.
“I’m looking forward to seeing all my family standing there on the side of the road,” she said. “Some of them will be walking along with (the bus) too.”
Following the parade, everyone will make their back up to Lodge on 4th for hot chocolate as they watch the big finale from what might be the best view in town.
“We’ve got a perfect view for the fireworks afterwards on the fourth floor where they reside so they can just go look out the windows and watch them all go off,” McKee said.