Panorama primed for 60th anniversary

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If you think a couple weeks of bad weather is going to greatly affect the Simcoe Christmas Panorama River of Lights, think again.
Saturday night will mark the opening of the 60th anniversary of the popular tourist destination which includes dozens of Christmas-themed displays and tens of thousands of lights shining in the downtown park system.

Rain and snow has challenged organizers during setup, but keep in mind, the festival was actually born because of Mother Nature.

Back in 1958, the town’s Santa Claus Parade was cancelled due to inclement weather and so the floats were assembled in the park so they could be seen by local residents. Strings of lights were hung over the floats – and the annual tradition was born.

“We’re down to the short strokes and we can’t wait,” said Panorama vice-president John Davies. “Bring it on.”

Davies and Gary Edge – the longest-serving volunteer at 38 years – were in Wellington Park Tuesday working on the final touches before Saturday’s big reveal. Davies said the rain has kept volunteers off the grounds at certain points but everything will be ready to go for this weekend.

“We’ve been hard-pressed to keep up with all the actives we have going on in the park but the excitement level as we move towards Saturday gains and gains,” Davies added. “We’re making good headway.”

The lights will go up in the park around 6 p.m. The board has been given permission by artist Gloria Mitchell to play her song ‘Christmas in Simcoe’ written specifically about the event. Santa will arrive on a vintage Bickle fire truck around 6:20 p.m. and stick around to meet the kids until 7:45 p.m.

“When I see the kids get off the Bickle with Santa Claus, they really enjoy it – that’s when I get to see their enthusiasm,” said Davies, who is posted up at Wellington Park for the night.
Port Dover illusionist Lucas Wilson will be unveiling what Davies calls a “spectacular” display that night. Also making an appearance will be the Daley family, who were instrumental in organizing the original Panorama as well as Norfolk’s Mayor-elect Kristal Chopp.

For as much pomp and circumstance that opening night brings, Davies feels the Panorama has become one of the top 100 festivals and events in Ontario because of the work done 12 months a year.

“I think the level of the maintenance on the displays and the additional lights we have year after year continues to attract people,” he began. “If the maintenance wasn’t kept up to speed people wouldn’t come, they wouldn’t talk about Panorama.”

As is always the case, Scouts Canada and the Tumaini Children’s Foundation will help keep walkers warm by selling hot chocolate and apple cider respectively.

“I think that adds an element of authenticity to the overall Panorama because when they pay something they know it’s going for a good cause which is rewarding, especially at this time of year,” said Davies.

A host of other events will be taking place in and around the park until the final night on Jan. 6, 2019.

If any person or family is thinking of attending, Davies suggested doing so on a weekend.
“If people really want to feel the excitement of Christmas Panorama, be here opening night or any Friday or Saturday night,” he said. “It’s a zoo, it really is – in a good way, which is very exciting for us to see.”

More information on the event can be found at simcoepanorama.ca.

jrobinson@postmedia.com

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