World Gourmet Kitchen Store owners Kamal and Therese Saab say the Festival of Lights boosts the exposure of their business

Festival of Lights attracts shoppers to Ladysmith

Bill Fitzpatrick had only just arrived Ladysmith in the mid 1980s when he struck the idea that the town needed an attraction.

By Mike Gregory

Bill Fitzpatrick had only just arrived Ladysmith in the mid 1980s when he struck the idea that the town needed an attraction to promote its small businesses.

“I could see that the businesses weren’t doing as well as they could,” he said.

“My catalyst was to provide that power, that draw.”

The 78-year-old former real estate investor moved to the sleepy mid-island town from big city Vancouver.

Fitzpatrick knew immediately he was the right person to get an event like Festival of Lights off the ground.

“I went downtown and it was around Christmas time and I looked at this pitiful display of lights from one building to another and that was it,” said  Fitzpatrick, also a former president of the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce.

“I got some people who believed in and my vision and away we went. It was not an easy job to sell.”

The first Light Up was held in Bob Stewart Park in 1987 and the committee of five organizers knew immediately they had the makings of a successful event.

“I was the one that threw the switch and I just listened to the crowd and they were clapping and just really excited,” Fitzpatrick said .

“That was first moment really were I could see that this is definitely going to work and so it just kept on going.”

The annual event, now its 29th year, is now known across the island with thousands arriving on the third Thursday of each November to see the town decorated up upwards of 200,000 colourful lights.

Cowichan Valley Regional District’s Economic Development Division statistics show the retail sector is the largest employer at 28 per cent.

“It’s a very important festival both from a community pride point of view but also as something as we can look to in the region that’s attracting people throughout the holiday period,” said manager Amy Melmock.

Destination BC market research shows retail and food spending from visitors to local events across the province to be about $56 per person.

Festival of Lights organizers estimate attendance was upwards of 16,000 people in 2015.

Building around the event, the Ladysmith Downtown Business Association will hold its Old Time Christmas, featuring horse and carriage rides and choirs, on the Friday following Light Up.

“Light Up is a springboard into the whole six week period. It generates excitement and people get into the spirit,” said the LDBA’s president Paul Mycroft.

Mycroft said the downtown businesses inspire to create an atmosphere in Ladysmith during the holiday season.

“The lights become a real bonus for bringing people in during a quiet period when,  if it wasn’t happening, we’d struggle through the Christmas period.”

Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce president Mark Drysdale agrees that the exposure for Ladysmith as a result of the festival stretches as far as the mainland.

“Even if there’s not a direct economic impact on the night of Light Up, the fact that people become aware of Ladysmith through the event , there’s economic spin off of that down the road.”

Since opening 13 years ago, the owners Kamal and Therese Saab of the Worldly Gourmet Kitchen Store on 1st Avenue have been big supporters of the festival.

“Our focus on that day is to project to the people that there is a dedicated gourmet kitchen store in Ladysmith,” Kamal said.

Worldly Gourmet has found Google and Facebook analytics improve annually as a result of exposure from Light Up.

“It’s super beneficial to us,” Kamal said, adding that 90 per cent of customers are from out of town.

“We get business for two or three weeks following.”

Fitzpatrick said he’s elated that festival continues to be a growing success  and gives credit to the volunteers.

“Ladysmith is a wonderful town for support,” he said.

“We’re a small town but that doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t think big.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Chemainus family pledges $50,000 to Chemainus Theatre Crisis Relief Fund

The Hilton family pledged $50,000 toward a matched fund. If fully matched, it will raise $100,000

Local woman makes face masks to raise funds for LRCA Food Bank

Cheryl Lowrence made 30 face masks and raised $326.25 for the food bank

Ladysmith family creates music video to show appreciation for community in the face of COVID-19

Sheila Richards, 77 is the star of new music video celebrating community kindness in Ladysmith

Burning complaints prompt regulation reminder from North Oyster Volunteer Fire Department

NOVFD has responded to at least 10 burning complaints in since April 1

VIDEO: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

Cullen commission into money laundering in British Columbia resumes today

Inquiry was called amid growing concern that illegal cash was helping fuel real estate, luxury car and gambling

Bike shops busier than ever, but owners worry about stock supply issues

Uptick in cyclists brings new challenges for shops

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

Most Read