Festival ready to light up Nikka Yuko

·4 min read

Dale Woodard

Lethbridge Herald

The Winter Light Festival at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is ready to light it up.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, that will mean a few adjustments, but the annual festival is still going forward starting Thursday from 7 to 9:30 p.m.

Speaking Tuesday, Michelle Day, executive director for Nikka Yuko, said things could change as the event goes on and to stay tuned for updates and check online for any other details.

“We need our community support and that comes with patience and being able to be flexible,” said Day. “Working with Alberta Health Services and the City of Lethbridge, we are going to be able to continue our Winter Light Experience. We’re going to continue to monitor the guidelines as they may change. They may have new ones or they may relax them in the future. By this time, it’s going to be as much of a touch-less experience as possible. But we’re encouraging everybody in our community to show support and come out to our Winter Light Festival as it is a safe experience.”

With the current guidelines, the first weekend of the Horse and Wagon rides and the first Shakespeare in the Garden performance have been cancelled.

“But we’ll continue to monitor (the situation) and as we go along, we might be able to add more programming as the guidelines change, and that’s where we need the communities support and flexibility in the sense (the events) might happen after Christmas or in January,” said Day.

As for the events going forward — following COVID guidelines laid out by AHS – a maximum of 100 people will be allowed in the garden per half hour, said Day.

“We’re staging the entry ways and all access to the garden has to be done online,” said Day. “I know our community is used to just showing up and going to the visitors’ centre but, unfortunately, we can’t do that. We feel it’s important we work with Alberta Health Services to ensure the tracking is there.”

Private events are still able to be booked, said Day.

“What we’re asking our companies and our customers during their private events is no gathering-like activities, so no speeches. But we can hand out things at the door and stage entry.

“We’re also making sure we have things for people to take home. We’re going to have an enhanced brochure to give everybody when they come to learn more about Japanese and Canadian winter customs.”

For the kids, Nikka Yuko has teamed up with local artist Eric Dyck to provide a colouring package.

“With Panasonic and their projectors, we’ve teamed up with a local anime gentleman, Keith Morgan (a local CG-Generalist and compositing artist) and he’s going to be telling a story throughout the garden (with) one-minute episodes,” said Day. “So people can space, but enjoy a story and experience along with the lights. They’ll still be leaving with some programming and some memories to take home with them.”

Tickets can be purchased on the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden website events calendar (www.nikkayuko.com/events) or through the Enmax Centre.

“I stress to like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/search/top?q=nikka%20yuko%20japanese%20garden) and watch our website (www.nikkayuko.com) for ongoing updates,” said Day. Day said even before the pandemic, the Winter Light Festival experience was an essential one.

“I’ve had many families say it’s affordable, it’s accessible and that the community really enjoyed. I think in the summer when we opened there was much of a need for people to get outdoors in a safe place and connect to nature. We heard that, so I think this Winter Light Festival is so important to our community for both those reasons. It’s outdoors, it’s a connection to nature and it’s a safe location to go.”

Day added the Garden was built and designed to promote mental health and wellness and a place to go to reflect.

“We don’t lose sight that sometimes the winter months are hard. I think there is seasonal depression and winter holiday anxiety and I think sometimes people just need a place to go to walk and we are honoured to provide a safe place for people to do that.”

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Dale Woodard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald