Turning on Lights at Lafarge a breath-taking moment

Most people don’t give a second thought to flipping a light switch. 

But beginning Nov. 24, Bruce Tiessen will be holding his breath every time he reaches for the toggle to turn on the more than 300,000 colourful LED lights that comprise this year’s Lights at Lafarge Christmas display at Coquitlam’s Lafarge Lake.

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“Every day when we turn it on, we cross our fingers hoping nothing’s gone wrong,” Tiessen said.

Actually, there are nine switches that must be turned on as the expansive display that surrounds the lake for 1.2 km is divided into as many zones so any problems can be quickly isolated and repaired, said Tiessen, who's Coquitlam’s landscape manager and in charge of designing the show that will be ablaze through the Christmas season and until Jan. 20.

This is the second season the lights have completely surrounded Lafarge Lake, Tiessen said, making it the largest free outdoor light display in Metro Vancouver. And with the lake located right at the end of SkyTrain’s Evergreen Extension, visitors from all over the region are making a stroll through the glowing seasonal scenes part of their holiday schedule.

That has raised expectations to keep the show fresh, Tiessen said, adding, “We have to be careful not to repeat ourselves.”

That means changing the colours in some of the scenes and adding new ones, the planning of which began last February, Tiessen said.

This year’s display will be more interactive, he added, and Christmas music will be piped all along the route.

Tiessen said working with lights is not much of a departure from his usual duties planning and plotting the city’s gardens and boulevards, except instead of trying to create moods and feelings with foliage and flowers, he’s using electricity and twinkle lights.

“Just like a gardener, you’re trying to fit it into the landscape,” he said.

Tiessen said it’s important all the displays have been handcrafted in the city’s workshops to instil a sense of community in the project. Which makes it a proud moment when those switches are first flipped.

Lights at Lafarge officially opens Nov. 24 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. An opening celebration will be held at the TD Community Plaza beginning at 7 p.m. featuring a fire and acrobatic show as well as performances by the Coastal Sound Music Academy youth choir and the Gentlemen of Fortune acappella chorus.



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