“Glowing” efforts: Lights festivals twinkle with skilled trade expertise

Story by Ontario College of Trades
Photos by WFOL.com

Certified electrician Terry Godin has been in the business for 40 years and loves what he does. However, there’s no denying the one project that “lights” up his work-life more than any other. In fact, it’s the one he looks forward to all year round – the Owen Sound’s Festival of Northern Lights.
The Festival of Northern Lights started almost 30 years ago and Godin, owner of Godin Electric, has been there from the beginning. “Growing up in a big family I’ve always been a fan of Christmas, and when I was asked to help out [by the festival committee] I jumped on it right away,” he says.
Watching this event grow has been part of the excitement for Godin, who volunteers his services. “It started small and has snowballed over the years, forgive the pun,” he says. “The first year we just decorated one side of [Sydenham River] on one city block.”
Today, several electrical service outlets are installed throughout the 25-kilometre route that runs along Owen Sound’s downtown core and into Harrison Park. These outlets power approximately 300 spotlights, 900 metres of rope lighting and 70,000 light bulbs.
“[I also ensure] that the main power is installed and that all our main and sub services are controlled by time clocks and lighting contactors so that they all come off and on automatically during the festival,” he adds.
Bringing to life the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights, Canada’s largest illumination festival, is no small feat either. The Niagara Falls festival features more than three million sparkling lights along a five-kilometre route, among other festivities, such as the incredible 11-foot tall mammal displays in Niagara Falls’ Dufferin Islands Park.
General contractor Steve Shear, owner of Shear Display in Drumbo, works with electricians and hoisting operators to construct and power what looks like a quintessential winter wonderland. Shear shares Godin’s enthusiasm for the annual holiday project. “It’s a lot more fun than working on a paved driveway,” he says with a laugh.
Most of the infrastructure work is done by Niagara Parks Commission in consultation with the Winter Festival of Lights team. Shear’s involvement starts early, with design and logistics planning. Next is the approval process and determining electrical requirements, which is where the skilled trades professionals shine.
One of the most important aspects of any lighting festival is safety, points out certified electrician Jamie Inglis, who works on the Wonders of Winter Festival in Waterloo.
“We also have a good group of volunteers that completely understands their limits when it comes to dealing with electricity,” he says. The volunteers recognize that safety is the most important consideration and the vital role of qualified electricians.
A few days before the event opens publically, the Electrical Safety Authority, led by Inglis, who is a City of Waterloo employee, does a final inspection of Waterloo Park’s displays.
At the end of the day, those working behind the scenes to bring these mesmerizing light displays to life can agree that it’s the twinkle in the eyes of the onlookers that make it all worthwhile.
“I love to see the looks in the kids’ eyes when everything lights up,” says Godin. Shear echoes that sentiment: “Everybody’s coming to enjoy it … For me, it’s light, it’s beauty.”

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