Panorama lights up downtown Simcoe

Jacob Robinson

By Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer


It doesn't feel a lot like Christmas around most of Norfolk County yet, but one trip into Simcoe after dark can change all that.

Saturday night marked the annual Simcoe Christmas Panorama River of Lights 'Light Up' event. Thousands of colourful lights and dozens of holiday-themed displays in the downtown park system were activated with the simple flick of a switch before a sizeable crowd.

Doing the honours this year was Simcoe's Cooper Whitehead. The nine-year-old has grown up nearby and knows just how big of a moment the light up is for everyone in Norfolk, even if the temperature is still well above the freezing mark.

“It was very, very heartwarming,” said Whitehead's mother Shelly. “We live right across the street and since he was a baby he's been over here checking out the lights and the last few years he's been saying he wanted to be the one to turn on the lights.”

Cooper admitted to being a little nervous to go before a few hundred people but completed his job like a seasoned pro.

“It felt like the whole town got lit up,” he said.

For a family that's been stricken with grief, the night gave them an opportunity to smile.

“With us having a tragedy at the end of last month — we lost my husband, his father Steve – it's nice that we had something positive happen,” Shelly explained.

The event has become an annual outing for Loretta Rossaert of Waterford and her granddaughters Cordelia Evans, 6, and Mila Mihaljev, 4. The youngsters travel from Brantford each year to see the lights alongside their grandmother. The trio was first in line – standing close to 45 minutes – to be the first to greet Santa as he arrived on Simcoe's vintage Bickle fire truck.

“It's become tradition to bring them because it's the beginning of the season,” Rossaert said.

Rossaert moved to Norfolk from Ajax five years ago and like many other visitors were enthralled by the Panorama.

“It is so beautiful,” she said. “We've been blessed with the weather so what a great opportunity for them as well, for the little ones to come see this.”

More information on Panorama is available at