Spotlight on… Bill Drysdale

There are many volunteers who make the Festival of Lights happen. We focus on Bill Drysdale who does so much of the behind-the-scenes work that make the Festival happen.

1. How long have you been associated with Festival of Lights?

I’ve been having fun with FOL folks for about eight years now.

2. What is your role?

My primary responsibility is to organize and supervise the installation of all our roof-top decorations and subsequent take-down of same.  I also weld broken decorations, make modifications and re-bulb them before organizing their storage to facilitate timely set-up next season.

The focus of my 20 year plan is looking for ways to expedite the set-up; we have gone from 2-1/2 months down to 1-1/2 months set-up time so far.  I saw an idea originally brought by Gord Cargil to ease the set-up on the Post Office, and made some adaptations to eliminate use of wood on subsequent decoration bases.

Keith Fitzgibbon further improved on my variation with a simple and brilliant design for a base which could be used for almost all of our decorations, (approx 100).  We brainstormed the final details and now have a design that eliminates the need for pallets on roof-tops.

We are seeking funding to have the final 75 made, at a cost of approx $200.00 ea.  The new bases will reduce our decoration set-up time to approx 3 weeks!

3. What is your favourite part of the Festival?

I would say my favourite part of festival is working with great people; all of us focused on bringing a great show for our friends and neighbours, as well as for the many visitors that come to our cool little town.

When Santa throws the switch we know that life long memories are being made; parents, grand parents, teenagers and most importantly, our young ones, marvelling at the sights and sounds of Light-Up, the Kinsmen Parade, Santa, and the LDCU Fireworks.

4. Which decoration is your favourite?

I don’t have a favourite decoration or bulb colour, probably because we are too busy setting them up or taking them down!

5. Favourite bulb colour?

We made a Poppy for the Legion this year and last year we made a Duck to honour you know who, for his amazing dedication to FOL.  The duck will move around town each year; keep your eyes open for his next resting spot!

6. What main challenges face Festival this year and beyond?

We share the common challenge of volunteer organizations; attracting dedicated people.  My job is well suited to someone fortunate to retire in their early fifties, looking to have fun while contributing to our amazing community, (…and is comfortable on ladders!).  We will train!

Thank you, Bill.

Spotlight on… Greg Edwards

There are many volunteers who make the Festival of Lights happen. We focus on Greg Edwards who retired this year.

1. How long have you been associated with Festival of Lights?

I have been in the Festival for approximately 15 years.

2. What is your role?

My role today is Vice-President.

3. What is your favourite part of the Festival?

The parade (especially the Cumberland cement mixer) and the time and energy people put into it with sometimes very inclement weather. It’s fantastic and a big part of our draw of people year in and year out.

All the smiling faces of the old kids and the younger ones it never fails to bring out a smile in me. The warmth the lights brings out in people on the event night and all the time (approximately 6 weeks) the lights are on.

The Festival has been blessed over the years to have an amazing group of volunteers – I have had the pleasure of being around them.

4. Which decoration is your favourite?

I like trains so rooftop-wise it would be the ones on top of the Royal Bank but from an eye-catching display, the new snowflakes on the Aggie fence are wonderful.

5. Favourite bulb colour?

Actually, red and green.

6. What main challenges face Festival this year and beyond?

Finances are always a concern now especially because LED bulbs are expensive and the old bulbs are getting scarce to purchase.

The biggest challenge is how to balance the “SHOW” and it’s traditions with new wave decorations and lighting techniques. The other aspect is to attract more individuals to the Festival to allow the SHOW to continue for may years in the future.

7. What will you do with your time now you’ve “retired”?

My wife Lin and I would love to travel across Canada with our two dogs. There are other travels as well as she is retiring soon.

All that being said I will be around and continue to help where and when I can, I think the Festival is in my blood.

Thank you, Greg.

Spotlight on… Cliff Fisher

There are many volunteers who make the Festival of Lights happen. We focus on Cliff Fisher who retired this year.

1. How long have you been associated with Festival of Lights?

Ten years, the year we moved to Ladysmith.

2. What is your role?

My present role is President (to the March AGM). Prior to that, I served as a board member and volunteered in many activities with FOL.

3. What is your favourite part of the Festival?

Seeing all the happy excited faces in the “Light Up“ event and the many folks that stop on First Avenue at night and take pictures and selfies with the dazzling lights as their background.

4. Which decoration is your favourite?

The new snowflakes on the ball field fence behind Aggie Hall that our own volunteers designed and decorated with brilliant LED lights. They really stood out as you entered town.

5. Favourite bulb colour?

The red bulbs mixed with clear Twinkie’s. It takes me back to my own childhood memories of the Christmas season.

6. What main challenges face Festival this year and beyond?

There are two main challenges facing the Festival of lights in my opinion.

  1. First is the fact that our costs to operate yearly is swiftly increasing due to higher insurance & operating costs along with the increased costs associated with new replacement LED systems suitable for our wet climate, and the difficulty Festival of Lights has in raising funds each year to cover these growing costs. Our community is pretty small for the display we put on and we often have to go outside our community for the additional financial support and are not always successful in raising our total  needs.
  2. The second serious problem is the shortfall of volunteers needed during the “Light Up” event. Most of our members are stretched out over the full day and we cannot always cover the Safety and control we need while we set up and take down the barriers and still do crowd control. We are getting some business groups and families taking on a specific tasks but we need more groups like that helping out on “Light Up” night to make it safer and more enjoyable for everyone.

7. What will you do with your time now you’ve “retired”?

Dianna and I will still volunteer in town functions when we are not travelling.

However we promised ourselves some long sightseeing trips these next few years along with summer sailing, and do not feel we can fairly take on leadership roles if we do that.

Volunteering was very good to us when we needed to get to know our community and we were allowed to give back with our time and support.

Thank you, Cliff.

Festival of Lights Wins Knights of Columbus Award

The Knights of Columbus Santa Maria Council 4582, after a year of fundraising, presented donation cheques to various charitable organizations in the area. Congratulations to everyone including:

  • Denis Olynyk – Grand Knight
  • Jerry Poiluvre – Knight
  • Elizabeth Weiss – Ladysmith Food Bank
  • Dennis Lait – Ladysmith Recourses Centre
  • Bern Muller – St. Joseph’s School Chemainus
  • Bob Erskine – Knight
  • Elizabeth Nicol – Nanaimo Crossroads Pregnancy Centre
  • Clover Burgas – Boys & Girls Club
  • Cliff Fisher – Ladysmith Festival of Lights
  • Art Gerrand – Knight
  • Ross Lubben – Knight
  • Ray Hedstrom – Disabled Sailing
  • Rev. Anthony Gonsalves
  • Carl Wandler – Knights
  • Jim McGarry – Knight
Cliff Fisher
Cliff receiving the award


How We Ruined Christmas Parades Everywhere

This testimonial came through the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce. We thought we would share this story of how we ruined Christmas parades everywhere.

My husband John and I are from Nanaimo. We are spending three months in the wonderful Californian sun, and enjoying the many cultural events and festivals held at this time of year in Palm Springs. Yesterday we spent time at the International Tamale Festival and had delicious treats. However, why I am really contacting you is to inform you that you have ruined all Christmas Parades for us!!!!

We were truly excited to be at the Christmas Light Up two evenings ago in downtown Palm Springs. We were sorely disappointed as it consisted of groups decked out in flashing Christmas lights with sadly decorated floats. What, no spaghetti dinner, no Christmas crafts, music, fireworks? It even lacked the festive atmosphere that brings smiles, and excitement and feelings of tradition which is so much a part of the wonder of the Ladysmith Festival of Lights.

So thanks again, we will never be able to go to another light  up anywhere without feeling sad and nostalgic. To be serious… you should feel such pride to be part of such a tremendously beautiful event that happens in your special town every late November.

Merry Christmas to you all. ~ Nancy Donovan

Thanks, Nancy.

Ladysmith BC