Celebration of Light fireworks

Celebration of Light: a guide for first-timers

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Canadians love fireworks, and those of you in Vancouver are in for a treat over the coming weeks as the annual Celebration of Light festival sparks into life once again.

Don’t know what it’s about? Or just want more info? Here’s our guide to the event.

What is it?

Formally known as the Honda Celebration of Light, this is an annual fireworks competition where participants from three countries compete on separate evenings in Vancouver to see who can stage the best 25-minute fireworks display.

Around 400,000 spectators will gather each night, and teams from China, Brazil and Canada will take part this year. The program is:

  • Sat 25 July: Team Lidu (China)
  • Wed 29 July: Group Vision Show (Brazil)
  • Sat 1 August: Archangel Fireworks (Canada)

There will also be live music, food stalls, and other entertainment from lunchtime onwards as part of the Shorefest program of events around Sunset Beach on each of these dates.

When did it start? And why is this year special?

Celebration of Light - Shorefest

The event first took place in 1990 and was known as the Benson & Hedges Symphony of Fire. It was re-branded after restrictions on tobacco advertising forced organisers to seek a new sponsor.

It means that this year is the 25th anniversary of the event. The Sails of Light at Canada Place, Science World, Vancouver City Hall, and the control tower at Vancouver International Airport will be lit up at 10pm each night as a special tribute to the fireworks festival.

Where and when can I watch it?

Celebration of Light site map

Click the map to view a larger image, or download a PDF here.

The fireworks begin at 10pm sharp on each of the evenings. This will happen “rain or shine,” according to the organisers.

They will be set from barges in English Bay, meaning you’ll have a good vantage point if you’re anywhere along the water west of Burrard Bridge, either in the West End or along Kitsilano.

You can also “save your spot” in one of the VIP lounges by buying tickets through the festival website.

Additional SkyTrain and bus services will be put into place to help accommodate the large number of visitors.

To avoid queues at ticket machines after the fireworks, passengers without passes are encouraged to prepay their return fare as they exit Waterfront Station through the Howe Street entrance any time after 4pm. The exact fare is required and tickets are valid until end of service.

For more information on transportation, click here.

The fireworks will be synchronised to music, and you can tune to LG 104.3FM to listen in if you’re away from the main speakers. We recommend using an FM radio to avoid the buffering and delays associated with online streams. It will also be broadcast live on Shaw TV.

What about the fire bans? Will these affect the event?

Celebration of Light - English Bay

The organisers have told Moving2Canada that the show is “100pc go”, as their safety protocols are passing the requirements laid down by the recent ban on fireworks because of the unusually persistent hot and dry weather.

“The Honda Celebration of Light fireworks shows occur out in open water and have a controlled fallout zone that exceeds the Federal Explosives Regulatory Division, so as to not put forests or parks at risk,” a festival spokesperson explained.

Vancouver Fire Chief, John McKearney, also told Moving2Canada that the latest assessment is that everything will go ahead as scheduled.

“All three nights are a-go, and we’ll be continuing to monitor what’s happening each night,” Mr McKearney said.

“The barges are exceeding the regulations set by Natural Resources Canada by one and a half times. The regulations say the barges must be 250 metres from the shore and from Stanley Park, but they’re actually 380 metres from the shore and 800 metres from Stanley Park so we’re satisfied with that.”

Mr McKearney added that the major concern at this stage is not the fireworks, but rather the behaviour of people attending the event.

“Smoking is banned on the shoreline and in the parks. We’ve done a fair bit of communicating and we’ll do more over the coming days to remind people that there’s no smoking, and no barbecues allowed in these areas.

“We’re asking anyone who sees people doing this to politely ask them to stop as it creates a hazard for everyone’s safety. We’ll have a volunteer corps out dealing with this just to keep a close eye on everything,” he explained.

If you have pictures of the events, email them to editor@moving2canada.com and we’ll share a selection of the best.

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