Winter Light 2011: Illuminations

Mack in particular has been harsh on the Winter Light Festival in the past, but necessarily so, because we know how much potential it has to make the cold months in our city more bearable. Tonight, though, we were absolutely buzzing after attending Illuminations, a spectacular show that can and should legitimately become the jewel in the crown of winter festivals in Edmonton.

Winter Light Illuminations 2011


We didn’t make it out to Illuminations last year, but we did in 2009, and found the event to be underwhelming. There were decorations, bonfires, and a few roving performers, but it wasn’t anything that would draw us back again. I’m happy to say that this year’s edition was quite the opposite.

It was chilly out, nearly –30 with wind chill (easily twenty degrees colder than when we visited Ice on Whyte last weekend), but Churchill Square still held a sizable crowd.

Winter Light Illuminations 2011

Gathering around the fire

We arrived just before the finale performance, and had time to take in some of the visual installations, the bonfires, and marvel at the “winter people”, actors dressed in white and trailed throughout the Square by targeted spotlights.

Winter Light Illuminations 2011

The promenade

Circus Orange is a Toronto-based pyrotechnic circus performance troupe – but really, all you need to know is that they were amazing.

Winter Light Illuminations 2011

The show begins

Their show combined dance, stunts, pyrotechnics, and a good old fashioned clown, and was mesmerizing for both children and adults alike.

Winter Light Illuminations 2011

The clown tames the monsters with…marshmallows!

The show began in front of the Art Gallery of Alberta, luring the crowd with a striking, monstrous steel tricycle outfitted with flares. The tricycle eventually moved into Churchill Square towards City Hall, and everyone followed like the obedient ducklings we were, frozen, but eager to see what would come next.

Winter Light Illuminations 2011

Follow that trike!

The finale was unexpected and extravagant. We thought the climax had arrived when a female performer was lifted into the air by a massive crane, waving sparklers, but in actuality, that was just a teaser.

Winter Light Illuminations 2011

When sparks fly

The actual conclusion involved the same performer, again lifted in the air, but harnessed into the large tricycle wheel, spinning fifty feet above the crowd, sparks flying, and City Hall aglow behind the spectacle. Fireworks were icing on the cake.

Winter Light Illuminations 2011

Up in the air

Winter Light Illuminations 2011

More sparks

Winter Light Illuminations 2011


Congratulations to the organizers of Winter Light for a fabulous event. As Mack said in his post, we hope this calibre of a performance is something we can look forward to every year – once word gets out, we can only imagine it will become a must-see affair for those in Edmonton and beyond, regardless of the weather!

7 thoughts on “Winter Light 2011: Illuminations

  1. I was really hoping you would post on this, Sharon. We had plans that couldn’t be canceled last night and I was sad we couldn’t attend this one. They were rehearsing on Friday evening and even that was great. Everyone in the art gallery was running to the windows to watch them go down 99th with the trike.

    It’s great to hear it went so well. This is exactly what’s needed in the winter. Thanks for the post and pictures!

  2. We were there too! We were grateful for the many warm fireplaces, and that they thoughtfully provided peppermint tea in addition to hot chocolate, for those who couldn’t have the chocolate!
    It’s worth noting that the aerialists worked in conjunction with our local dance and fire troupe, Vibe Tribe, to put on this fantastic show.

  3. I think it’s wonderful how you blog about various events that happen around the city, Sharon! I hadn’t even heard about this event before, but it sure looked exciting. I always think about Edmonton’s summer festivals, so it’s great to see how there are winter festivals as well!

  4. Marianne – it was amazing! I hope they do something similar next year.

    Virtual.Jess – you were probably as cold as we were…we had to go back inside to warm up for a bit :). I didn’t know that Circus Orange worked with a local group – thanks for pointing it out!

    Stephanie – thanks for reading! I think it’s great that Edmonton continues to add more and more festivals to its roster (e.g. the new ATB comedy festival, Freezing Man). That way, we really live up to our “Festival City” moniker!

  5. Good Morning, Sharon.

    It’s time for the year of Rabbit 2011!

    As a tradition since the Polos age, we will offer a “special” to celebrate Chinese New Year. Meanwhile, it is also showcasing Judy’s Culinary imagination!

    This Special will start serving on Wednesday, February 2nd.

    If you have time to come by to try this menu, just let me know…especially, if you haven’t try chocolate with fish, it will be a good story telling to your children!

    See you soon.

    Have a nice day,


    Wontons of Rabbit with Local Mushrooms and Zen Oolong Tea Broth


    Pan Seared Hawaiian Escolar with “Nutella” Hazelnut-Chocolate Glaze


    Edmonton’s Best Goat Milk Crème Caramel

    no substitute please

    Guong Hat Fat Choy!!!

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