Panorama has successful year, despite vandalism
This gingerbread house sponsored by the Rotary Club of Norfolk Sunrise was one of three displays at the Simcoe Christmas Panorama River of Lights that was targeted by vandals this year. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer
This past holiday season was a 'banner year' for the Simcoe Christmas Panorama River of Lights, but some people had more than viewing on their minds.
John Davies, vice president of the event – one that sees hundreds of thousands of lights and dozens of displays light up Simcoe's downtown park system – estimates that 40 per cent more people visited Panorama this year than recent Decembers.
A number of factors attributed to the spike in attendance, Davies said, including the board's increased focus on social media and digital advertising.
Tradition plays a big part as well.
“Panorama has really been sort of building over the last few years and I think word of mouth (helps),” he said. “We're seeing a lot of people from the Hamilton, Oakville, Stoney Creek area right down to (Niagara) Falls. We definitely have a 250-kilometre radius – 85 per cent of the people in the park are from out of town. We see grandparents bringing their grandkids, parents bringing their kids – the Saturday nights are unbelievable.”
The nice weather that greeted Panorama fans early in December also helped.
“With so many out of town people, we really didn't have any road issues until later in the month,” Davies pointed out.
But with all those folks wandering around, there was bound to be some bad apples. On three separate occasions, Norfolk County OPP was contacted when small buildings on the grounds housing cash boxes for charity were preyed upon by vandals.
“Anything that had cash was definitely targeted and when I say targeted it's not young kids, this is people with crowbars, pry-bars, bolt-cutters – they come with the intent to break in,” said Davies. “All three of the displays had the same traits, meaning the tools involved were quite extensive.”
Davies said the board would suggest to service clubs selling items like hot chocolate and warm cider during Panorama to clean out their cash boxes on a regular basis in order to deter would-be thieves.
Instead of the few brazen enough to steal from community groups, Davies instead chooses to focus on the positive things that Panorama provides to the people of Norfolk County and beyond.
“It doesn't stop us from putting on the best show that we can,” he said. “When it comes to vandalism of any sort, when you're in the business we're in, you're always going to see a little of that stuff, however this year we are really concerned because, how did these people break in? These are not five-minute jobs, some of them probably took an hour. It's a little disheartening, but we'll carry on and we'll make sure that the cash boxes have very little if any cash left in them.”