If your spirits need a little brightening this holiday season, Riverview has just the tonic.
The town has lit up its biggest Christmas lights display ever, a twinkling, multi-coloured bonanza that runs along a full kilometre of waterfront on Coverdale Road.
It’s a traffic-stopping feast for the eyes – and it just may be the biggest outdoor holiday lights display in Atlantic Canada.
“I think we’ve really got something special here,” community recreation co-ordinator Ash Arrowsmith said of the display, which he believes is the East Coast’s largest.
“As far as the eye can see,” there are lights reflecting off the Petitcodiac River, lights on the riverfront gazebo, on a lighthouse, on a covered bridge, and on every tree along the waterfront.
The display features tens of thousands of commercial-grade lights that really up the wattage wow factor, Arrowsmith said.
“They’re brighter than normal lights and I think that contributes to why it’s so amazing.”
The lights went on for the first display in 2018, and those lights remain up year-round.
But every year, the display gets a little larger and a little brighter, with help from town staff, local businesses and even a group of middle school students who assemble and test lights for new installations.
“It really does take a whole community to pull this off,” Arrowsmith said.
And if you think it looks impressive from the ground, wait till you see the bird’s-eye view.
The town commissioned licensed drone photographer Brent Smith of Osprey Cove Productions to film the display’s launch night last Thursday.
The flight was approved by NAV Canada, and the resulting video, which follows the trail from start to finish and then loops back and follows it back to the beginning, has already logged about 4,500 views on YouTube.
Drone photographer captures the night-time magic
Smith said the night-time footage captures another layer of magic, showing the lights reflecting off the rippling river and traffic slowing to a crawl to take in the sight.
“I love the contrast of the blackness and the colour … and the lights of the cars in the background, too. Because it’s an event, there were tons of people around.”
But while the live energy of the event was infectious, Smith, whose own parents are in their 80s, was mindful that he was filming for an absent audience as well.
“I was just trying to capture the feel, the mood,” particularly for people who might find it tough to get out to see the display, he said.
“To me, it’s a great opportunity to share that feeling with them.”
After months of pandemic anxiety and variant wild cards, sharing good feelings is a big part – perhaps the biggest part – of what this year’s display is all about.
“It just seems to brighten a lot of spirits,” Arrowsmith said, noting the town has received messages from health-care workers who were on their way home from work in the middle of the night and were delighted by the lights display.
“That’s really what it’s all about,” he said. “Just trying to put a smile on people’s faces.”
TWINKLE, TWINKLE: FUN FACTS ABOUT THIS YEAR’S DISPLAY
- The Light Up Riverview display contains 52,000 lights.
- The trail route starts at the Fundy Chocolate River Station and continues along Coverdale Road for one kilometre to the Gunningsville Bridge area.
- Lights installed in 2018 stay up year-round. New installations are added every year, and take about a month to install.
- Students from the town’s middle schools help out every year, assembling and testing about 5,000 to 8,000 lights in their school gymnasium. This year, Riverview Middle School students helped out.
- The lights stay on from Nov. 25 to Jan. 6.