The Celebration of Light fireworks festival in Vancouver has been cancelled for 2009, say organizers. ((CBC))

Vancouver's annual fireworks festival has been cancelled, organizers said Wednesday, blaming the economic downturn.

"It has been an exceptional 18-year event — the largest of its kind in the world — and it is a credit to our many exceptional sponsors that we kept the event going year after year," said Brent MacGregor, chair of the Vancouver Fireworks Festival Society.

"However, the current financial situation makes it impossible for us to continue."

"To our sponsors and operational partners, to the city of Vancouver, and most important to the residents and visitors who came each summer to watch the spectacular shows — thank you!" he said.

The HSBC Celebration of Light event drew huge crowds to the city's waterfront over several nights each summer to watch the fireworks.

The displays from various countries were staged on floating barges in Vancouver's English Bay.

It began nearly two decades ago as the Benson and Hedges Festival of Lights. When that sponsorship ended in 2001, the City of Vancouver and various other sponsors took over the event.

However, the event also had a reputation for drawing some unruly crowds, making the policing costs high, and it continued to struggle financially from year to year to meet the event's $4 million annual budget.

In the past eight years participating countries have included: Canada, USA, China, Spain, Mexico, Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden and South Africa, said MacGregor.

With approximately 350,000 to 400,000 spectators per night, for each of the four nights of the show, the event had an economic impact of over $37 million annually in direct visitor spending, he said.