History of the OPG Winter Festival of Lights
The Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights attracts visitors to Niagara Falls from across Ontario, Canada, North America and beyond, and entertains the many thousands of people who call the Niagara Region home.
From humble beginnings in 1983, the OPG Winter Festival of Lights continues to enchant and delight the many wintertime visitors to Niagara Falls, Ontario. In its first year of operation, approximately 250,000 people and 35 motor coaches visited the OPG Winter Festival of Lights. Since then, the celebration has grown tremendously with attendance now over 1.3 million visitors and 1,060 motor coaches.
The success of the Niagara Falls, NY Festival of Lights, which began in 1981 inspired the Niagara Falls Canada Visitor and Convention Bureau (now Niagara Falls Tourism), the City of Niagara Falls, The Niagara Parks Commission and numerous local businesses to band together to create a parallel event. Unfortunately, the Niagara Falls, NY event was discontinued but the OPG Winter Festival of Lights has grown in leaps and bounds, both in dazzle and popularity.
This tremendous growth continues to have a positive impact on the local economy. In fact, the OPG Winter Festival of Lights was recognized in the 2003 Festivals and Events Ontario Economic Impact Survey as having the largest economic impact ($60+ million) of all festivals in Ontario. With the level of increased business activity in what years ago used to be the Niagara Falls 'off season', the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights has directly contributed to longer and busier seasons for the tourism industry and the winter employment of many local residents.
Planning for the OPG Winter Festival of Lights occurs year-round with staff investigating new and creative events and entertainment to add to its schedule. The efforts and dedication of Festival staff and Board members as well as hundreds of volunteers have gained the OPG Winter Festival of Lights worldwide recognition.
In 1999, the North American Bus Association proclaimed it the "Number One" event in Canada. The Festival also received a "People's Choice Award" for Best Event by S.W.O. Special Events Guide; was named by the Ontario Motor Coach Association as one of the Top 5 Festivals in Ontario; was recognized by the National Tour Association for its success in generating revenue in the off-season; and in 2002, the OPG Winter Festival of Lights won the Attractions Canada Award for Best Cultural Event.
In 2005 & 2007, the Festival was chosen as a Top 100 Internationally Known Event by the American Bus Association while its website and programme won "Best in Class" awards from Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO).
Most recently, FEO again awarded the Winter Festival of Lights with a "Top 50 Ontario Festivals" honour and recognized it as having the Best Overall Promotional Campaign amongst Ontario Festivals with budgets over $500,000.