Edmonton’s Winter Lights Festival – Details Please!

Back in September, plans for a new winter festival called Winter Lights: A Celebration of Edmonton’s Winter Spirit were released. Almost immediately city council allocated $450,000 to the event. Today, the festival received an additional $300,000 from council:

The money comes as councillors try to make cuts to the proposed 2009 budget to avoid homeowners getting stuck with the double-digit tax increase that was originally projected in October.

Festival chairperson John Mahon said he appreciates people’s concern for how their tax dollars will be spent.

The event would run from January 8th until March 21st, right during the heart of winter. In addition to including three existing events – Ice on Whyte, the Deep Freeze on 118th Avenue, and Silver Skate in Hawrelak Park – new events such as a star-gazing party in Elk Island National Park are being planned. I like the idea, and I think it will be great for Edmonton to make that time of the year more enjoyable!

Holiday Lights at the Alberta Legislature
Photos of Light Up at The Alberta Legislature

I am concerned about the budget and timeline for the festival, however. I completely understand that arts and culture make up a relatively small amount of the city budget, and I absolutely agree that a winter festival is a great idea for a northern city like Edmonton. What I don’t get is how $750,000 is going to be spent on a festival slated to start in about a month?

Where is the website? What does the marketing look like? Is there a logo? Why are the only results in a Google Search news articles about the funding? Why isn’t the event listed in the Festival City calendar? Why don’t the existing event websites mention the new festival? And just what are these new events, anyway? A star-gazing party doesn’t sound like a very expensive production. And finally, why are they already planning for 2010? Shouldn’t we see how 2009 goes first?

According to the Edmonton Journal, more details will be released next Wednesday. I would really love for this festival to be successful, so I hope the plans don’t disappoint.

In the meantime, check out this thread at C2E for some more context and history. And some interesting ideas from Edmontonians!

UPDATE (12/12/2008): A website launched on Wednesday, December 10th: http://www.winterlight.ca – thx to Joel in the comments for letting me know.

UPDATE (1/8/2009): Here are notes, photos, and video from the opening ceremonies for Winter Light 2009!

10 thoughts on “Edmonton’s Winter Lights Festival – Details Please!

  1. Perhaps they’re planning for 2010 because they know they don’t have time to get 2009 ready?

    Ok, just RTFA, and it seems the $750k is for 2009 and they won’t commit money for 2010 until they see that 2009 works (which makes sense).

    Hmm…. $750k is a lot of money…

    Star Gazing at Elk Island would be cool. Or just come to my farm – give me $750k and you can come look at stars. It’s only a couple of miles from Elk Island, so just as little light

  2. I’ve been involved in the development of Winter Light, and I’d like to share my perspective.
    The city has long wanted to ‘festival-ize’ winter – our longest season, and certainly the season most people would agree could most use festival activity and fun.
    I think the City anticipates the initiative will be a success in much the same way Edmonton’s summer festival season has made Edmonton a cultural hot spot – public festivals are lively, interesting, a source of civic pride, plus create international awareness, and economic spin-off. So the ‘festival model’ is solid.
    In terms of timing, the money was allocated in early October, and a new organization is really going from 0 – 60 in very few weeks. A team has now been assembled, and are working hard to create high-quality events and winter production for Edmonton audiences.
    And finally, it’s important to remember the budget covers a 10 week period, 3 existing festivals, and the special challenges of winter production. Other successful winter festivals in Canada, and around the world, have budgets in the millions.
    I agree the current economy makes every investment worth close scrutiny. But as research and experience show us, the ratio of buy-in to pay-off with regard to the arts is always a win, especially in terms of quality of life and economic benefits. I think the City made the right decision in supporting their original evaluations, and is giving Winter Light a chance.
    And I believe that given a bit of encouragement, Edmonton is ready to get behind the idea that we are a great winter city!

  3. “Zero to 60 in a matter of weeks”, Anthony is fraught with disaster in the making, despite good intentions,talented people,and hard work. Good Luck.

    Any corporate support yet? Goods,services,people, cash, all would be good. Epcor, Telus, all the media companies come to mind as, sponsors and investors. Good for one, good for all, right?

    What’s the value proposition? What will drive Edmontonians and local business to engage Winter Light? The good citizens are ‘in’ for $750K,like it,or not.

  4. Nothing like a pointless splash screen to waste people’s time….

    It’s going to need more than just backlinks to help it in Google; not once does it say ‘edmonton’ in the body of the home page

  5. Hi I am from Spokane WA area and my wife and family desire to attend the Winter Light Festival.  However, the website lacks any substantial information.  It doesn’t even have lodging information.  I tried to sign up for the e-brochure but the link is not working.  For the large amount of money, it appears, being pumped into this event I am not seeing solid marketing.  Where is the overt benefit, dramatic difference, and the real reason to believe message?  thank you.  Gary  my email is  gla2462@comcast.net

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