Celebration of Light Fireworks Cancelled for 2009

Comments 34 by Rebecca Bollwitt

Update 2010: The fireworks are on this year.

Update March 11th, 2009: A “generous benefactor with a business angle” has stepped up to cover/sponsor the event and the Celebration of Light is officially back on. [news1130]
Additional: It has been announced that The Keg is the new sponsor. [straight.com]

Our city has battled with these events each year, from noise pollution to crowd control, and now the future of the world’s largest offshore fireworks competition, the Celebration of Light, is pretty dark. In a press release this morning it was announced that due to a lack of sponsorship dollars the festival would not be happening again.

Photo credit: uncleweed on Flickr

I’ve lived in Surrey, Kitsilano, and the West End so I’ve been able to experience Vancouver’s annual Celebration of Light summertime fireworks nights from several angles and perspectives. As a West End resident, I came to accept the fact that hundreds of thousands of people would come streaming past my building 4-5 nights a year (even during a garbage strike). When I lived in Surrey it was a treat when the family would pile into the car and head out to the beach at Jericho for an evening picnic and fireworks display off the shore.

Every city and resident has their opinion of the fireworks so for many this announcement is a blessing — for others it’s just another way our city is returning to its “no fun” roots.
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Update: In 2001, 6S Marketing ran a “Save the Symphony of Fire” campaign as you may recall it used to be the “Benson & Hedges Symphony of Fire” but having a tobacco company being a title sponsor was no longer allowed.

Update February 9th, 2009: There is now an official campaign to save the fireworks. You can donate online to support this event or join the Facebook Group for more information.

34 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Raize604Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 — 11:19am PST

    That completely blows, it’s something I look forward to about the summer. Maybe this is like last year and they will find some sponsors at the last minute.

  2. DuncanWednesday, February 4th, 2009 — 11:28am PST

    I’m genuinely bummed about this. I really enjoyed taking pictures of the fireworks 🙁

  3. CharleneWednesday, February 4th, 2009 — 11:38am PST

    I’m a bit jaded. I don’t care one way or another. I can see them from my apartment window as I live just behind the Sylvia. It did make for a good excuse to have friends over on the finale night to have a party, but at the same time I won’t be too sad that they will not be happening this year.

  4. RaulWednesday, February 4th, 2009 — 11:40am PST

    As someone who has lived in various parts of Vancouver (full disclosure, never in the West End), but who is concerned for the negative impacts of the fireworks, I have to say “good riddance”. Yes, I did enjoy the views. Yes, I had very positive, community-building experiences while watching the Fireworks (most recently last year at MJ’s house). But frankly, given the pollution generated (both aquatic and airborne), the social results (stabbings, fights, etc.) I can’t say I’m disappointed. Do we need another event in the summer? Yes, but one that builds community instead of creating artificial social divides.

  5. JennyWednesday, February 4th, 2009 — 11:59am PST

    This was a really cool event for Vancouver. We went as kids, as teenagers and a few times as adults. It was great when I took my daughter for the first time. I think it’s a treat for lower mainlanders and tourists.
    I do agree with Raul that a community building event would more favourable however.
    Well I guess Surrey’s Canada Fireworks will be it for now.

  6. Miss604Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 — 12:19pm PST

    @ Jenny – I agree, why doesn’t everyone flock to Surrey for some of their great festivals – there’s even more breathing room out there 😉

  7. TylerWednesday, February 4th, 2009 — 12:31pm PST

    Aww the first time I’m an actual West End resident and our balcony can see the water, they don’t have the Celebration of Lights? Btw.. I still like calling it Symphony of Fire 😉

    Yes it sucks that recently there have been more fights, stabbings etc. The police presence is pretty big during the event. With over 350,000 people crammed into small areas I guess that in todays day and age that is unavoidable.

    Want to avoid the crowd (mosh pit) don’t try leaving when everyone else is leaving. Don’t take Denman, Davie or Pacific, take a side street to avoid the mass movement of people. Watch the fireworks from one of many dinner cruises. You can even see the display from Cypress’s view point (I did that one year).

    Though every year they seem to have issues with bringing in enough money to support the venue and every year they seem to make it happen.

    Is it just English Bay where the incidents occur? Or did places like Kits etc have incidents too?

    The only bad thing I’ve seen happen out of all the times I have gone was in one apartment building on Davie someone threw down a beer bottle. Luckily it didn’t hit someone and just smashed on the sidewalk.. still though.. *sigh*

    I guess they can’t limit the English Bay Area to just the residents 😉

  8. GlennWednesday, February 4th, 2009 — 1:07pm PST

    I’m pretty happy that the fireworks are not happening this year. They’ve always seemed very wasteful to me.

  9. KimmWednesday, February 4th, 2009 — 1:25pm PST

    That’s a bummer, there are summers were I haven’t been able to go and I was really looking forward to head up to Seymour Mt this summer and watch them (less crowds and a whole different view)

  10. AmberWednesday, February 4th, 2009 — 2:26pm PST

    I’m disappointed that the fireworks have been canceled, and hope they run again in the future. I haven’t been able to attend for a few years with the little ones, but I was looking forward to attending as a family when they get older. My in-laws have a place in Kits and I thought it would be a great summer celebration that we could do once a year.

  11. TawcanWednesday, February 4th, 2009 — 2:54pm PST

    That just blows, I was hoping to capture some firework shots this year. Well hopefully this is a one time only cancellation and won’t affect 2010 and onward.

  12. klparrotWednesday, February 4th, 2009 — 6:00pm PST

    I live in the West End, and I’ll definitely miss them if they don’t happen.

    It seems every year they’re on the verge of cancellation due to lack of money, but sponsors always step up in the end. I think there’s a small chance that’ll be the case again this year, but I’m not holding my breath; I imagine in the current economic climate most companies would be less enthusiastic about sponsoring the event.

    Still, with a $37 million direct economic impact, maybe the city will deem $4 million in funding to be a worthwhile investment and step up. Take it out of the Canada Day fireworks budget; I’d much rather keep the Celebration of Light instead.

  13. lucWednesday, February 4th, 2009 — 10:02pm PST

    @Raul – I don’t think there are any more altercations during the fireworks then on a regular weekend on Granville Str. It was one joyful, public, free event in an otherwise rainy gray city.

  14. Derek K. MillerThursday, February 5th, 2009 — 12:24am PST

    I used to have a great technique to avoid the crowd crush. I rode my bike from Burnaby down to the event, as at the very moment the fireworks ended, I got on my bike and pedaled like mad. Even in the early days when cars were still allowed, that got me way out in front of all the walkers and everyone trying to get to a vehicle, and I had clear traffic all the way home. Plus it was good exercise.

    I’ll miss the fireworks if they don’t happen, but I haven’t been able to get there in years. I think the last time was 2002, when my band played all four nights right at the judging platform, which was fun. Got some good pics too:


  15. MichaelThursday, February 5th, 2009 — 12:52am PST

    We are one of the largest fireworks export company from Liuyang China(Liuyang is capital of fireworks ,and 75% of fireworks are exported from here in the world),We have been manufacture professional fireworks and consumer fireworks for over years.

  16. Shane BirleyThursday, February 5th, 2009 — 9:23am PST

    Sadly, I only went to the fireworks once or twice since moving to Vancouver in 2001 and won’t really miss them.

  17. AidanThursday, February 5th, 2009 — 9:31am PST

    I’m going to miss them this year. I have gone since I was a teenager (rowdy and all – but still respectful of everyone around us) … then as an Adult with my friends, or boyfriend. We always had a great time, as I worked down in Kits for a few years so I would be able to find parking early and my friends would bus down so I could drive them home….

    I was also the type of person to bring my own garbage bags, and pick up whatever I found around me after. To help clean up as so many people were huge litter bugs, I think it was getting better though…

  18. BradThursday, February 5th, 2009 — 12:32pm PST

    I think this stinks…Vancouver is already a boring city, and I was born and raised here. Yes, I agree that the Fireworks were starting to get a little crazy with the fighting, stabbings etc…but a lot of this stems from the fact that Vancouver doesn’t have enough things to do…so when we do get to do them, some people go overboard. Seriously, when the city has to hire somebody to be the “fun commissioner” then you know something is wrong.

    When I was growing up, there used to be a lot more festivals, parades etc…to do in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland…and a lot of them even had beer gardens…and there wasn’t as many problems as we have today.

    I believe a lot of this stems from the fact we are too restricted here to get permits to allow events to happen. Remember Bryan Adams wanting to do a free concert in Stanley Park… 100% on his dime? And the city STILL wouldn’t allow it!!. Crazy. Costs are way too high, too many restrictions and therefore there are fewer and fewer events…so when there is an event, people go crazy.

    In fact, for a person who does not drink alcohol…I find it VERY hard to find something to do in the Lower Mainland on a typical evening…other than the usual movie, casino or mini-golf.

    In fact, it is getting so bad, that my wife and I often drive to Seattle or Portland to go to the many numerous events that those cities have…which many of them do serve alcohol and so far none we have been to in the past 7 or 8 years have had an incident.

    There are just too many bleeding hearts in Vancouver who complain about stuff and never see the positive side of things. I mean seriously is 4 or 5 evenings out of 365 really SOOO bad that people complain as often as they do. People relax, enjoy our city and let people congregate and enjoy this thing we call life.

  19. SkyeThursday, February 5th, 2009 — 5:09pm PST

    So the city can afford $1 BILLION cost overruns for the stupid Olympic Village million dollar condos but can’t cough up $5 mil for the fireworks? Like others have said, its one of the ONLY free summer events. Sure there are some idiots but there are also a lot of families, students, etc that appreciate a free event. Our Canada Day celebrations are pathetic (compared to say Seattle’s 4th of July). Great job Vancouver!

  20. Odyssey Plans to Move to Denman » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittFriday, February 6th, 2009 — 9:12am PST

    […] goes with the lower end of Robson street (except after a playoff win by the Canucks or during the fireworks in the summer). I haven’t lived in the West End long enough to know if there have been […]

  21. VanderMonday, February 9th, 2009 — 4:53pm PST

    Is the website you posted legitimate? The small print says:
    This campaign is neither endorsed nor supported by the HSBC Celebration of Light, or by the Vancouver Fireworks Festival Society (VFFS)

    What happens to the money raised if there are no fireworks this year?

  22. Patrick PostrehovskyMonday, February 9th, 2009 — 5:03pm PST

    Question: What happens to the my donation if the full amount isn’t raised or is not raised in time to save the 2009 show?

    Answer: If for any reason the full amount cannot be raised in time, a display will be produced regardless, dedicated to the City of Vancouver Community. We have every confidence and assurance that there is time and resource to achieve our goal. Funds will also be used to stage future shows in 2010 and beyond to continue this Vancouver summer tradition.

  23. Patrick PostrehovskyMonday, February 9th, 2009 — 5:04pm PST

    Read the FAQ’s and our website for more information.

    Spread The Word. Spread The Light.

  24. Winterfest Wrap Up and Good Times in Surrey » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittMonday, February 9th, 2009 — 8:11pm PST

    […] in a city that is being taken over by Olympic planning and construction, while also losing major free events for the entire family, it’s nice to see other cities engaging their neighbours and celebrating all of their […]

  25. TJTuesday, February 10th, 2009 — 4:43pm PST


    Move the symphony of fights to Surrey where it belongs.

    Let this cultural Chernobyl die. Please!

  26. KalevTuesday, February 10th, 2009 — 9:02pm PST

    I am so glad they are gone, although now my prediction that eventually they’d cause a major riot will never be proven true. It’s just waaaaay too many people to squish into a very limited amount of space. That being said, the fact they’re being cancelled for “economic” reasons (rather than safety) is just pathetic–as others have said, somehow we can come up with tons of money for the Olympics but for free events?

  27. VanderWednesday, February 11th, 2009 — 9:46am PST

    Just reading the Province today:

    Fireworks group lacks status
    But it’s not a charity, can’t issue tax receipts


    A local group raising money to save Vancouver’s annual fireworks festival has no connection with the society that stages the show, no official charitable status and no apparent ability to issue the tax receipts it promises.

  28. MarieWednesday, February 11th, 2009 — 10:07am PST

    This truly saddens me. Small think strikes again in our fair city. I’ve lived in the West End and downtown area since the Summer of ’86. I’ll admit there have been many years when I’ve done my best to avoid the whole commotion but I have attended more times than I can remember and on the whole consider the fireworks one of the jewels of the city. In a time when the whole world is watching us as we prepare for the 2010 Olympics; when hundreds of millions of our tax dollars are being spent to build a new convention centre, transit systems, Olympic venues and fund development of the False Creek Olympic Village; when the number of kids living downtown (under the age of 15) is at an all-time peak and when our tourism industry needs all the help it can get – we cut back on this.

  29. Chip’s Not Dead Yet Memorial Mile – Save the Date » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittThursday, February 19th, 2009 — 7:01am PST

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  30. KateFriday, April 3rd, 2009 — 1:11am PDT

    Vancouver is a no-fun city because we’ve banned smoking on outdoor patios. It’s true. Consider this: we have 2 seasons – winter and July. The amount of days one can actually have a cocktail outdoors and enjoy an after-dinner smoke or cigar are few and far between. But now the non-smoking-nanny-fun-police have made it illegal to have a puff at midnite in a rainstorm and we wonder why everyone loves going to Vegas and Mexico. These are two places left on planet earth where one can feel like an adult; hence the popularity of shows like “Mad Men” – we are tired of being treated like children and long for the days when there were still some freedoms left to enjoy. And the non-smokers out there are blind to how these policing measures start to creep into our lives – it’s very insidious. Now, nine year-olds are supposed to sit in booster seats while driving. But wishy-washy Canadians who lack even a modicum of critical thinking completely fail to see where this is leading. And now we have it: no fireworks, no sandcastle contests, no Italian days, no nothing. So, we have a city that’s drag where it never stops raining; a city that is virtually a ghost-town by 10pm. Oh, and let’s not forget the gang war! Tell me why anyone should come here.

  31. BC Liquor Store Opens on Robson » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittWednesday, May 27th, 2009 — 9:28pm PDT

    […] I remember the original liquor store that closed down on Robson, between Bidwell and Denman. It was supposed to re-open with the rebuilding of a Safeway but due to delays in that project, the liquor store building lay vacant for years. When the new Safeway was finally built on Denman and Robson, welcoming ground-floor tenants such as CIBC and Vancity, the BC Liquor Store wasn’t far behind. We walked by today and it seems open if not very close to opening. It will definitely be convenient when walking home from Safeway and wanting to grab a nice Pinot Noir to accompany dinner (although I can already see the line ups forming for fireworks nights). […]

  32. Link Fest: Free Vancouver Events July 2009 » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittTuesday, July 7th, 2009 — 11:16am PDT

    […] Vancouver’s free fireworks spectacular, the Celebration of Light, (that was in danger earlier this year) is back again with a kick-off performance by Canada July […]

  33. Rogue Folk Shorefest at the Celebration of Light » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittThursday, July 16th, 2009 — 1:32pm PDT

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  34. testFriday, September 11th, 2009 — 2:48am PDT

    test is this

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