VanDusen lights up the holidays

Outdoor events make a comeback as people hope to enjoy the festivities

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By Christopher MacMillan

VanDusen Botanical Garden is lit up once again after the COVID-19 pandemic dimmed holiday festivities last year. 

In November 2020, a provincial health order issued by Dr. Bonnie Henry banned all social gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This came after a restart plan initiated in May failed to curb COVID-19 cases. In response, Festival of Lights was cancelled for the season and refunds were issued for pre-purchased tickets. 

Emily Schultz, supervisor of revenue and visitor services with VanDusen Botanical Garden, said she is excited to finally have visitors return for the event and that they expect a busy season. 

“I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand, people are just really excited to enjoy those holiday events that they used to before. So we’re seeing a lot of advance ticket sales now,” Schultz said.

While there may be more visitors this year, because of current provincial health orders, visitors will be required to show proof of vaccination before entering. Masks will also be required indoors, and ticket will only be sold in advance online. 

Despite these restrictions, Schultz said that the garden has added new activities and art displays to the Festival of Lights experience. 

What’s new

“We have lots of new themed areas. We’ve kind of moved things around this year, and added lots of different artistic elements that we’ve brought into the garden. I would highly recommend the rose garden, the blue river and Heron Lake as feature points as well as the white tunnel that we can see right here on the edge of Livingston Lake,” Schultz said.

Some activities will not be offered this year to reduce surface contact and limit gathering. Kids will be able to write letters to Santa Clause but will not be able to take photos with him. The carousel will also not be making an appearance this year. 

Schultz said that the event will still have plenty to offer families. 

“We recommend allocating at least an hour to enjoy the event, up to two hours. It is 15 acres. It’s outdoors in a botanical garden, and we have over one million lights so it’s fun for the whole family, [and also] great to enjoy as a couple, with friends, [or] with family. So [we] encourage everyone to come out this year,” she said.

Festival goers Leah and Brian Cunningham have never attended the festival. “This is our first time. We were supposed to come a couple years ago but couldn’t get tickets,” Leah Cunningham said.

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