The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce has decided to discontinue the BrightNights festival held in December in Hawrelak Park for the past 11 years.
Rising operating costs and the disrepair of some of the approximately 900 lighting displays, along with the need to hold the line on admission costs, make continuation of the event unrealistic, said chamber president Martin Salloum on Wednesday.
"We just got to a point where there was pretty significant cash infusion needed to… fix up the displays that are there and bring in new ones," Salloum said. "We looked at the economics of the event and just felt that we couldn't continue."
There's also a significant amount of labour required for the event in terms of set-up and teardown, he said.
As well, there's been a shift in public thinking regarding the environment and holding a lights festival, Salloum said.
"Since we got into this, there's been such a change-over to LED [lights], which wasn't available to us when we started, and even just to switch these things over to LED was over a million dollars. I don't think people realized the expense involved in setting up a display of this size," Salloum said.
He said the event will be missed by many Edmontonians.
"I think most people are understanding.. that these things can't go forever.. one of the options we had was to continue to raise the price and I don't think that that's viable, people can only afford so much for a drive through to look at lights," he added.
He's hopeful a smaller version, or something different may be developed some time in the future.
Food Bank loses
BrightNights was a significant fundraiser and food drive for the Edmonton Food Bank.
About 30,000 kilograms of food, and $30,000 was donated each year to the food bank through the event, said Marjorie Bencz executive director of the Food Bank.
"For a Christmas campaign goal we're usually looking at.. 250,000 kilograms of food, and BrightNights bringing in about 30,000 so it is a chunk of food and money that comes in with that event," she said. "We're hoping we can make it up in other ways," she said.
The Food Bank and Chamber expect to make an announcement in November outlining a new event, she added.
Since 1998, BrightNights also raised $600,000 for a hot lunch program distributed through Edmonton Public Schools.