The lights turned on in Centennial Park for the 33rd time on November 25, 2017. “The Celebration of Lights started in 1984 with a few decorative houses,” explains board member, John Charest. “Harvey McMichael was the inspiration for the festival. He always decorated his home. The Lighting Competition, sponsored by Bluewater Power, features a new award named after Harvey. It’s amazing to think that this started with 350 bulbs. Additional displays have been added each year, including pole-mounted decorations. There are well over 60,000 bulbs now.” Today, the Celebration of Lights includes a lighting competition for city residents as well as a large light display in Centennial Park.
The Celebration of Lights was originally overseen by the Visitor Convention Bureau, then Tourism Sarnia-Lambton and the Chamber of Commerce, before incorporating in 2002 and forming an eight-person board of directors. Charest has been a part of the organization since its inception. “I always enjoyed helping my father decorate our family home. One day he brought me a poster advertising the need for volunteers to help set up lights. I showed up at the park that first year and have continued ever since.” When new displays were purchased in 2000, Charest was trained on how to put them together.