Oh how I’ve missed writing here – it feels very good to be back. I’ve been gone from this blog for some time now, entirely absorbed in a job that I chose to expand into more than a job, once I understood the value of the Festival that sponsored said job. It has been, I believe, worth it.
I hardly knew anything about the Festival itself. Turns out this wacky, huge and varied collection of 300+ light displays is the biggest Community-based winter thing happening in Grey-Bruce-Simcoe Counties (second only to dear old Wiarton Willie), and brings in over $1 million to Owen Sound & its environs every year. Although this may sound like ‘tourism talk’, it’s nothing to sneer at in these economic times, regardless of how you might feel about the display design, hydro usage; dollars spent on lights, supplies (and my salary); the enormous amount of effort. Owen Sound has lost several large employers this past year – retailers and service industry folk Need this kind of positive injection more than ever – increased consumer spending, more protection of wages for employees, more ‘bums in [theatre, restaurant, concert & taxi] seats’. Valuable.
The festival is 24 years old this year. So every display, every lightbulb has been checked & repaired for 24 years, new displays built locally and adopted into the mishmash of ideas and styles and interpretations of ‘seasonal’ and ‘lights’ that adorns the City’s riverbanks and park. All of this maintenance has been (for 24 years) facilitated by a core group of volunteers and a couple of City Parks staff members, who by now can be called expert in anything related to rope lighting, making the most out of an electrical feed, hanging and maintaining lights in giant deciduous or coniferous trees (there’s a big difference), and arranging, re and re-arranging displays every year in and over the geography that is Owen Sound.
Movers and shakers join the organization on the board level and pour in their energy because they’re drawn to the gentle but massive impact of Opening Night, or moved by their children’s (or their own) sense of wonder on a snow-filled, peaceful evening in December. Others join because they see the real economic value for the area, and the potential for supporting a sustainable vision for its growth. They inject energy, attract new faces who eventually step in to take over – somehow, there are always excellent people ready and willing to step in and build, or re-build the vision. What’s really happening here, I think, is that we’ve decided, as a community, that we MUST throw a big party & light up the darkest nights of the year.
As an effective, powerful community cultural festival it’s quite impossible to resist when you learn the stories, understand its impact, and see its real potential. So, these past six months at least I’ve been writing reports to the board, writing letters to sponsors, writing emails, promotional blurbs, award applications and grant applications, writing to do lists instead of writing this blog (a little bit like giving up vegetables in one’s diet – a dumb idea if done for too long).
I’m not done yet either, but I believe Festival is now going to get through a transitional tunnel (city-run to independent NFP Corporation), so I can at least balance my output a little more, and stretch back into my happy places – writing, painting, singing, cello-ing.
I’ll be here again soon – there’s quite alot of music to write about, among other things. But I’ll leave you with this image: