With a wiggle of his nose and wave of his hand, Santa Claus launched this year's Festival of Lights at Science North Sunday, alongside a crowd of star-struck spectators.
The big man in the suit traded in his sleigh for the night in exchange for something a bit more flashy - a big red firetruck to be exact, with chauffeur service provided by the Greater Sudbury Fire Services.
Earlier in the night, Mr. Claus joined community members in celebrating the launch with pizza, marshmallows, carnival games, face painting, and photo-ops with little ones in attendance.
The Sudbury Charities Foundation (SCF) has hosted the Festival of Lights for around 20 years, in support of underprivileged children in Greater Sudbury. It is hosted in partnership with Science North through the support of local businesses such as this year's principal sponsors, Panoramic Properties and Dance Evolution. (https://www.sudburycharities.com/)
"We're just about bringing families together," said Claude Charbonneau, president of SCF.
With young kids of his own, Charbonneau said the event is not only an opportunity to share a tradition with family, but communicate the importance of charitable work such as that done through SCF.
"Their donations, whether by purchasing tickets or donating at the door, goes back into our community for underprivileged youth in the Sudbury region," he said.
"The money is by us and for us."
Close to 300 LED silhouettes and scenes line the Science North parking lot and boardwalk, said Charbonneau, each designed by volunteers on behalf of the Sudbury Charities Foundation and the event's previous hosts.
While not much about the display changes from year to year, Charbonneau said the Sudbury Charities Foundation does its best to introduce at least one new silhouette a season. This year, he said, that included the creation of a hockey net and the re-roping of the stars that face Ramsey Lake.
In the future, Charbonneau said the foundation hopes to create more scenes rather than stand-alone silhouettes, but this is a matter of time and resources.
It takes a skilled tradesperson several hours to form the steel, weld it, and tack it to the desired shape, said Charbonneau. This is followed by several more hours of lining the structures with LED rope, which he said is tie-wrapped at very small intervals to keep the structure taught.
Quite a few volunteers are needed to pound the rebar into the ground, secure the structure to the rebar with additional tie wraps, and plug everything together with "big safe cables."
Carbonneau said that they received quite a bit of community support this year, but could still use a helping hand to make the festival the best it could be.
Volunteers are needed to collect donations during this year's event, as well as next summer and fall, which Charbonneau said is when their team dedicates a significant amount of time to refurbishing their display.
The Festival of Lights can be accessed by donation seven days a week until Jan. 4.