ERIN LINN MCMULLAN
Special to the Westerly
At the entrance to Tofino Botanical Gardens is George Patterson’s beautiful light installation, the Virgin of Guadalupe, welcoming you to Winterlights, its third annual festival of art and light. Her cloak of stars shines as golden pinpoints amidst purple, magenta and blue-hued LED lights. An oasis on the dark Multi-Use Path.
“The idea is we have a celebration of light and darkness,” says Patterson, of the outdoor light gallery, which, like Butchart Gardens’ Christmas display, encourages locals and tourists of all ages to enjoy this curated experience during the holidays.
READ MORE: Winter Lights shine in Tofino
A new feature this year is a maze open to the night sky.
This West Coast holiday tradition interprets an electric light display dating back to Christmas, 1882. Just two years after his former employee, Thomas Edison, patented the light bulb, Edward Hibberd Johnson showcased his tree strung with 80 hand-wired red, white and blue lights in his New York townhouse’s parlour window.
“Tofino can be one of the darkest places in the world. If you live here, it’s a long, dark winter. Why not have Winterlights?” muses Patterson, who would love to see the idea spread throughout town.
READ MORE: A garden of earthly delights in Tofino
“Tofino Winterlights is a truly magical experience, a core of warmth and celebration for the community and those visiting the West Coast during these darkest days of the year,” says Esther Celebrini.
“I’ve been performing at the Winterlights for the past three years and have really enjoyed Darwin’s Cafe; the professional upright piano and intimate setting for vocals makes it a wonderful venue for jazz. I will be playing many pieces I love that celebrate this beautiful season: Nutcracker excerpts, Christmas classics, winter lullabies and songs about love and peace.”
The festival’s pass invites you to enjoy live entertainment and events often. A holiday sampling includes: performances by singer-songwriter Vanille and Tofino-Ucluelet choir to movie nights; children’s activities from puppet shows to Santa photos; holiday wreath making and a celebration of cookies.
Tofino Arts Council’s “Words in the Winter” features the Dec. 30 “Night Write” studio with Tofino Poet Laureate Joanna Streetly. Writers of any skill-level can “gather, take inspiration from the night and reflect on the passing of the year.”
Even in the most inclement weather, watching the halo of lights through the café’s rain-glazed windows is a treat, along with a hot drink—mulled wine/cider/cocoa—and cookies.
Winterlights runs from November 30, 2018 to January 6, 2019. Festival pass: $15 (Adults), $12 (Seniors), $10 (TBG Members and Students), Children 12 & Under Free. www.tofinowinterlights.com