Shine Bright New West is adding a bit of sparkle to neighbourhoods across the city.
Running until Jan. 3, Shine Bright New West includes holiday light displays, self-guided walking tours, outdoor scavenger hunts, at-home activities and more.
“It started with lights. I think the reason it started with lights is that it is accessible. It’s easy for a business, for residents, to put up lights,” said Lisa Kemp, the city’s acting special events coordinator. “It was a good way to connect everyone. Then what happened is it slowly evolved to: how can people celebrate the holidays safely.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, the City of New Westminster had to cancel this year’s Santa Claus Parade, the annual tree-lighting ceremony in Hyack Square and its popular Breakfast with Santa events.
“It’s very much a choose-your-own-way of experiencing Shine Bright,” Kemp said. “Some people might not be interested in the games but they might be interested in seeing a light display in their neighbourhood. Some people might just be excited to see something new in their neighbourhood, whereas some people might want to do every single thing on the list.”
Lights are displayed in all parts of the city including Queen’s Park and Port Royal Park in Queensborough. At the Queensborough Community Centre, the city’s horticulture staff created a holiday train display out of recycled materials.
“It’s almost as beautiful as one of the Woodward’s windows,” Kemp said. “It’s unbelievable.”
The City of New Westminster’s website includes a map of light displays, including individual residences that have decorated for the holidays. It also shows the locations of “selfie stations,” including the Queensborough Community Centre, Sapperton Plaza and the plaza outside the New Westminster Public Library on Sixth Avenue.
“We really want people to participate and embrace this,” Kemp said. “The most special thing for me is seeing how people have embraced it. People who have never done elaborate displays are doing them.”
The Downtown New Westminster BIA has embraced the initiative and organized Shine Bright Downtown, which includes Shine Selfie Stops (a giant star and snowflake) on Columbia Street and the Candycombs installation in Hyack Square.
“This new interactive piece was designed to bring some light to the community during a dark time,” said a notice about Candycombs. “They’re bright, they have a fun tropical feel, and they play whimsical music while they light up. Built using 2,000 pounds of steel and sound-responsive LED lights, they’re solid, safe and oh so sweet.”
Monkey C Interactive, the creators of the Floralume public art installation on Front Street, created Candycombs.
“Shine Bright is exactly what New West needs right now,” said Kendra Johnston, executive director of the Downtown BIA. “I personally can’t wait to grab hot chocolates with my family, wander through our downtown on our nightly walk and experience a little more sparkle, we could all use more of that in our day to day.”
Angie Whitfield, the Downtown BIA’s programs and events manager, said the BIA is thrilled to partner with the city and host Shine Bright Downtown.
“The call to action is a citywide call to action to shine extra bright this year with us all being trapped at home and not being able to do events,” she said. “Lighting is one thing we can do that is still safe. And we could all use some brightness this winter.”
Along with this year’s new pieces, the downtown is home to existing lighting pieces including Wait for Me Daddy in Hyack Square, Floralume on Front Street and starbursts in trees on Columbia Street. The BIA hopes people will explore the neighbourhood – and support local businesses along the way.
“We did an inventory of the lighting that is currently in downtown New West, and we have a substantial amount of lighting. The trees are lit up and there is extra of those little starbursts in the trees. There’s the swag lighting across Columbia Street,” Whitfield said. “There is a lot.”
Shine Bright Downtown aims to give people another reason to explore downtown – and to connect with their community
“I think this is a way that we can still connect and do something that brings some joy to the community in a safe way. The more people that participate and the more people that light up their homes, their balconies, their storefronts, it will make the experience better for everyone. I think it’s something – it’s something for this year.”
For more information on Shine Bright New West go to www.newwestcity.ca. Details about Shine Bright Downtown can be found at www.downtownnewwest.ca.