Festivities at the kickoff of the annual Lions Festival of Lights, now in its 30th year, at Confederation Park in Calgary on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016.
Mike Drew / Postmedia
It’s lights out for the long-standing Festival of Lights unless the society can come to an agreement with the city.President Otto Silzer of the Lions Festival of Lights Society sent a letter to area Coun. Sean Chu and Mayor Naheed Nenshi on Friday saying after 32 years of seasonal light displays at Confederation Park, they are closing shop.“I think it would be a devastation to Calgary because a lot of people enjoy that light display and it’s free. No matter what your economic status is, you can come out there and you can enjoy those lights,” said Silzer on Saturday.“The whole issue is access.”He said under a new agreement with the Confederation Park Golf Course they would have no choice but to set up the light display after Nov. 7 because of late-season golfers and tear it down by March 7 when the course re-opens.Silzer said both deadlines are unreasonable.With uncertain winter weather conditions and the need to accommodate volunteers’ schedules, he said they wouldn’t have enough time to craft the light spectacle.And the early deadline to pack up the lights could cause issues as they can’t remove displays that are frozen in the ground.The lengthy dispute with city staff would put an end to an over-three-decade-long partnership.“In 1987, just before the Olympics, the city council approved this festival of lights on a handshake. We’ve been operating on that particular handshake ever since,” said Silzer, who added that hundreds of volunteers and Calgary families would be disappointed by its permanent cancellation.Coun. Sean Chu said he was shocked when he received the letter.“My reaction was ‘what the heck is going on?’ but after that I thought there is always two sides to a story,” he said.After reaching out to city administration, the councillor said the city had requested a map of the power lines and were concerned about safety.Chu said the city was also surprised by the society’s decision.“I think they pulled the trigger a little bit too early. When I spoke to the city, I very specifically asked them if it is going to get cancelled and they said no,” he said.“Everything can always work out. As you know the city’s wheels turn slowly, and I have spoken up many times saying things need to go faster. However, when it comes to safety should the city do a shortcut? Personally, I don’t think so.”Silzer met with the city just before the weekend and will meet with them again this coming Friday. He said it was an oversight that the maps hadn’t been provided yet and will give them to the city when they meet next.While both organizations want to come to an agreement to keep the festival running, Silzer said they won’t budge on their demands.“Someway or the other, they want us to be able to resolve this issue,” he said, but “unless they change their minds, it’s still a no. It doesn’t matter what (they) say, it’s a no-go.”