(Mayor Drew Dilkens smiles and is surrounded by family moments after officially lighting up the big Christmas Tree during Bright Lights Windsor on opening night at Jackson Park in Windsor, Ontario, on Friday, December 6, 2019. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
Just after 6:30pm Friday night the Dilkens family, lead by Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, pushed a big red button, larger than a large pizza, and officially opened the 2019 Bright Lights Windsor Festival at downtown’s Jackson Park. Dilkens was, to say the least, beaming.
This is the third year of what is now an annual event in the city to celebrate the season. In its first year, he says, 60,000 visitors entered Jackson Park to walk among the lighted sculptures and view iconic holiday characters and trees lined with lights. Last year, the number almost doubled, to 100,000. This year, Dilkens declared, will be the best yet.
The iconic red button, once pressed, officially turned on the lights adorning the centerpiece of the park, a 64-foot tree in the middle of the Queen Elizabeth II Sunken Gardens. The tree itself is surrounded by an assembly of feature areas including the popular Candy Cane Lane, with its large bright candy cane lighted fixtures, as well as Rainbow Lane, Polar Blast, Kid’s Central Station, Santa’s Workshop, Proudly Canadian and Around The World. Again, there is the Ouellette Avenue side of the park’s collection of large letters spelling Windsor, known as Windsor Way. Visitors seem to love climbing over it and having their photos taken by family members.
And, as in past years, the WE Made It: Holiday Market will run on Fridays and Saturdays and for the first time this year, on Sundays too. The Market is filled with crafters and food merchants offering everything from knitted wear to macaroons. In the case of the latter, the city’s east end bake shop, Sweet Revenge, was back for its second appearance at Bright Lights. Angel Chretien was staffing the booth on Friday evening and was kept busy with customers lining up for the bakery’s peanut brittle, the night’s most sought after delight.
A number of the vendors were also returnees including hot chocolate server W.E. Care for Kids, food servers WindsorEats, and the Road Chef food truck among many others. And there were newcomers including Amanda Madison and her personal jewelry company November’s Eve Jewelry with its hand-made necklaces, ear rings and ornaments. A partial market for food and beverages will remain open from Monday to Thursday.
Aside from all the lights, the park will also be filled with music. Before Dilkens officially declared it open, two singers, representing the city’s Arts Collective Theatre, kicked off the Festival singing Christmas carols. Kianna Porter, who has appeared in a number of ACT productions certainly amazed with her angel like voice and was joined by Cathy Costa.
ACT’s President and Creative Director, Chris Rabideau, speaking with Eyes On Windsor, talked of the Festival being a wonderful way to celebrate a holiday which is all about love, good spirits and family. It was also, he added, a particularly good venue to showcase ACT. It is now entering its sixth year and is the youngster among local theatre companies.
A fan favourite is back for year three. Billy Myskow, one part of the Myskow Brothers musical duet, was performing his collection of seasonal tunes. It is one of the few real community events, he tells Eyes on Windsor, and he really appreciates the opportunity, particularly the joy it brings to children who seem to enjoy dancing to his music.
New this year is a sensory friendly “Silent Nights” each evening on Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. in partnership with Autism Windsor Essex. During this period, the lights will remain but all sounds in the park will be muted.
During Bright Lights a number of local charities will be hosted, consisting of Operation Keep Windsor Warm, Autism Ontario Windsor Essex, Windsor Essex Care for Kids Foundation (W.E. Care for Kids), Unemployed Help Centre, Canadian Mental Health Association and the Salvation Army.
Bright Lights, a free, family-friendly festival, will operate from 5:30pm to 10:00pm, nightly until the final day. The park will also be open to walkers and joggers on Sunday mornings from 6am to 8am. Festive performances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday evenings between 6:00 and 7:00pm.
Jackson Park’s main parking lot, off of Tecumseh Road East, will be closed for the duration of the festival. Parking is available nearby, all within in a few minutes’ walk including the lot at Kennedy Collegiate, 245 Tecumseh Road East, Parks & Recreation’s Field House, 2365 McDougall Street, and its main office at 2450 McDougall Street as well as the Parks Yard at McDougall Street and Memorial Drive and the Parkside Tennis and Windsor Lawn Bowling sites.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.