The City of Windsor is once again preparing to welcome visitors back to Bright Lights Windsor, even after a fire last weekend damaged one of the new attractions planned for this year.
Despite the unseasonably warm temperatures right now, Bright Lights Windsor is almost open fo the season, and city officials and planners on Wednesday offered a preview of all that's new for 2023.
"Bright Lights is important to me. I know it's important to at least 100,000 people in the community who come back each and every year," said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens. "They look forward to the excitement of Bright Lights and we're excited to bring it back."
Bright Lights, which takes place at Jackson Park, will officially open for the season on Dec. 1 and run to Jan. 7. This year's theme is "Where Tradition Shines."
Many fan favourite attractions and features will return this year — but the city also planned some new attractions this year. Motion-activated "singing trees," LED chair swings and stepping tiles that light up in response to visitors' steps are all among the new attractions to check out, Dilkens said.
"As always, that's just the tip of the iceberg at Bright Lights and as all your favourite features will be back along with much, much more," Dilkens said.
The City of Windsor is preparing to open Bright Lights, the annual celebration, on Dec. 1, 2023. This year's theme is "Where Tradition Shines." (TJ Dhir/CBC)
Michelle Staadegaard, the city's manager of culture and events, said Santa will also be on-site two days a week — until, of course, he gets a little busy on Christmas Eve.
However, not all attractions will be opening as planned: a fire over the weekend destroyed bales of straw intended for a children's maze and also damaged a popular maple leaf light installation.
Dilkens said he immediately went to the park on Sunday when the fire broke out, concerned it was the centrepiece Christmas tree that was on fire.
Firefighters battled a blaze in Jackson Park on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023. (Kathleen Saylors/CBC)
Now, the city has ruled out any electrical cause of the fire and the investigation into the cause of the blaze is ongoing.
"Police are investigating to see if in fact it was arson. That certainly creates a difficulty if it's a criminal offence … hopefully we'll be able to find the culprit if in fact it was arson," he said.
Bright Lights will again this year feature the WE Made It holiday market, said Gordon Orr, the CEO of Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island.
"Giving [businesses] a platform like this at Bright Lights Windsor is a benefit both to the small business community and the tourism and hospitality industry," Orr said.
Staadegaard said they're already planning for Bright Lights 2024, and this year's new attractions are designed to help people spend more time at Bright Lights. On average, she said, people spend between 35 and 60 minutes checking out the attractions.
"They enjoyed seeing the lights, but they wanted to spend more time with their family," she said. "People are just looking at ways of finding great ways to be able to spend with their family and or bring visitors to bright lights from out of town."