Lighting up the season

On Saturday evening, the annual Wonders of Winter festival of lights held its opening ceremony in Waterloo Park.

The ceremony began with the Waterloo Concert Band playing Christmas songs including “The First Noel,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Silent Night” to a large crowd of all ages.

With great anticipation, Mayor Halloran and Bill Weiler, the founder of Wonders of Winter, flipped the imaginary switch, turning on the lights and officially opening the festival. The members of the crowd then dispersed to tour the various displays and to take advantage of horse-drawn trolley rides around the park.

After the ceremony, Weiler explained that he founded the event “to create a festival that would attract both adults and children, would have a children’s theme as well as a Christmas theme, and would be free to everyone.”

Having seen the displays and experiencing the atmosphere, the reaction of the crowd was overwhelmingly positive.

“This is our first time. It’s really nice,” said Sandra Dworatzek of Guelph.

Attending for the second year were Lisa and Steve Wienburg of Waterloo and their daughters Anna, six, and Clare, five.

“I really like the fact that you get to see people from the community out like this and it puts you in the spirit of Christmas,” explained Lisa.

When asked what her favourite display was, Anna exclaimed, “Santa!”

Wonders of Winter has approximately 50 sponsors this year, including many local businesses.

More than 35 volunteers work with the festival, and about 18 of them helped set up the displays.

“We are self-sustaining, and our partners, mainly the City of Waterloo, assist us in getting the festival ready for December each year,” said Weiler.

While the purpose and commitment remain constant, the festival has grown very much since it first began. “Wonders of Winter has changed from a few lights 16 years ago to include displays that are both static and moving, and each year we have added some new features,” Weiler added.

The Wonders of Winter festival runs every evening from Nov. 28 until Jan. 3. Admission is free and donations are accepted.

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