Wild Light

A dazzling display of illuminated artwork will light up the Valley Zoo.

Ten dark winter nights will be brightened as the inaugural Festival of Light comes to Edmonton – compliments of the Valley Zoo Development Society (VZDS). The society – a charitable organization that works to update and revitalize the Valley Zoo – has pulled together a new yearly tradition for Festival City. The society hopes it will bring Edmontonians outdoors for a dazzling display of illuminated artwork from December 6 to 15.

Conceived in the same vein as light festivals held in Amsterdam, Montreal and Helsinki, the event will consist of large light-up art installations spread throughout the Valley Zoo’s Entry and Wander sections –  the North Saskatchewan River-themed entryway and centre walkways of the zoo – which will open the same day as the festival.

Tammy Wiebe, the executive director of the VZDS, says the idea for the festival comes from last year’s Zoo-minescence. The previous event was a Christmas-themed light and ice sculpture installation light years behind the plans they now have in store. “A new member of our board, [Erin Clyde], decided that instead of doing a Christmas-themed light exhibit, she wanted an exhibition more in line with massive light festivals,” says Wiebe, “ones that host international art competitions where artists can bring turnkey light installations to be judged.”

While an international festival is the goal for the future of the fest, Wiebe says that the first year will begin locally – pairing local artists, light display designers, technicians and audio-visual media companies to create vast exhibits which will titillate the eyes. Accenting the festival are LED-wearing dancers and performers, music provided by DJs and an ice rink.

The new light-fest is backed in part by Edmonton’s new WinterCity Strategy to create and promote outdoor activities in the city. It’s a feat Wiebe says is easily attainable with a new winter festival like this one. “We have the perfect place in the city of Edmonton to do a light festival, bar none,” says Wiebe. “It’s dark, so we won’t disturb the neighbours. People can come in and they’ll have access to the zoo from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The zoo is never open at night, so this is kind of a nice treat.”

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