Bear Creek Park will be lit up like a Christmas tree starting Sunday (Nov. 4), but Surrey’s annual Light Festival has nothing to do with December’s big holiday.
No, it’s all about bringing light to the area at a time of year when things get increasingly dark in these parts.
“This event started as just a unique way to see the park, and it was never meant to be a Christmas thing or a Halloween thing, it’s more about when our daylight fades,” said Mandy Hadfield, a lead organizer of the Light Festival.
“More lights, more nights” are promised this year at the expanded, seven-night festival, which runs from Nov. 4 to 10 during evening hours, from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission is free, and themed nights are planned.
The Telus-presented festival has grown from a single-night event in 2016 to a two-night gathering in 2017, to seven nights in 2018.
“Two years ago we had around 1,200 people come out to this event, last year we had over 6,000, and we’re not sure what to expect this time,” Hadfield said this week.
“Last year we got so many people we didn’t expect – people just kept coming and we were like, ‘OK, the word is out.’… We asked for feedback and some of it said people wanted to see it on the weekend and take their kids, so we listened. This year, we’ve already had the biggest response on social media we’ve had to any of our events, so as of this morning we’ve had 11,000 people say they’re interested in the Facebook event we put out, so far.”
On Monday morning, Hadfield toured the Now-Leader through Bear Creek Gardens as crews strung lights and built arches while a hard rain fell on the festival grounds.
Come Sunday, the park’s water playground will be a starting point for more than 50,000 lights, opposite the works building known as the Bear’s Den, south of the outdoor pool.
“This is our activity zone,” Hadfield explained. “The Honeybee Centre is coming to do a really cool display they did in partnership with Surrey Christian School, where the kids handmade this really beautiful honeycomb. It’s a really neat part of this.”
Park paths are lined with festoon lights, leading to a large wooden frame designed for photo shoots. The Telus Lounge area will include virtual-reality goggles and giveaways. Nearby, the park’s white metal chapel will be lit up, as will the pagoda located in the Japanese garden.
“That black box,” she said, pointing, “will become a giant Lite-Bright, with over 300 water bottles filled with coloured water and lights inside,” she continued. “That’ll be really cool. It’s more the kids stuff right now, with stilts and lit-up robots, things for the kids to enjoy.”
MK Illumination, an international company with an office in Surrey, this year returns to help set up the festival, which kicks off Sunday with an activity zone, food trucks, roving performers and more.
“We’ll have a big tent here, and it’ll be where people can sit down and have some food,” Hadfield said. “You’ll be able to get Triple O’s, Japadog, Molly’s and Taters, the baked potato place.
A Diwali-inspired theme night is planned for Tuesday (Nov. 6), with an entertainment stage and added attractions. That afternoon, from 4 to 5 p.m., guests are invited to construct collaborative lanterns with mentoring artists Roxanne Charles and Debbie Westergaard Tuepah at nearby Surrey Art Gallery, and then “take them out for a walk afterwards.”
The gathering on Saturday, Nov. 10 will be similar to opening night, with additional festivities planned.
All others are “quiet nights with just the lights,” Hadfield noted.
”We’re telling families, come on those Nov. 4th, 6th and 10th nights, with the activity area, but if you’re like, you know, dual income, no kids, or maybe the kids are out of the house now, come on the Monday, the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday – the more quiet nights. There won’t be food trucks on those nights but it’s a good time to just walk through and enjoy the lights. We don’t anticipate those nights having thousands of people.”
“In Coquitlam they kind of involve their whole parks team, and at first we didn’t really do that here,” Hadfield said. “It was just a group of four to start off, and we did what we could with the resources we had, and now we’ve got the support with our landscape operations team. People have gotten really excited about it, sponsors have gotten behind it and it’s taken off.
“There are some big events, such as Glow in Langley, and the all the gardens in Vancouver do it,” she continued, “but one thing I realized last year is that south of the Fraser, what is there that you don’t have to pay for? That’s us, and that’s what we want to be.”
A free park-and-ride shuttle will be available on the nights of Nov. 4, 6 and 10 at the school district building at 14033 92nd Ave., for service to and from the Bear Creek parking lot at 140th Street and 86A Avenue. “Parking is available at both 88th Avenue and 140th Street parking lots,” says a post at surrey.ca. “It will be busy. Consider taking the shuttle, carpooling or walking to the festival.”
For more festival details, call 604-501-5050 or visit surrey.ca/lightfestival.