Preparing Central Park to “light up” for the season

November 16, 2022

Staff from the City’s Public Works department have been busy braving the elements to prepare Central Park for the Light Up event happening on Saturday, November 26.

This annual event, which is a coordinated effort between the City’s Events team, Public Works and other City departments, invites residents and visitors to kick off the winter season and share in community spirit by watching the magical lights at Central Park turn on for the season!

It’s not a small job to prepare for Light Up. While the Events team is busy organizing and coordinating games, crafts, activities and more for the afternoon, a dedicated group from Public Works spends hours – and hours and hours! – preparing and installing the lights and decorations at Central Park.

Heidi Bernhart – an operator with the City’s Public Works department – has been involved with the annual light installation at Central Park for over a decade and it has become one of her favourite projects.

“Our team really does take pride in getting Central Park ready for Light Up and we look forward to seeing everything come together,” says Heidi. “Between planning, testing, decorating and maintenance, the team works so hard every year to make it special!”

It takes an incredible amount of preparation to execute the display that adorns Central Park. With 117 trees to dress in addition to the Lions Log Cabin, a detailed plan is a must. One big spruce tree will have 27 strands of lights, each with 70 bulbs (that’s 1,890 lights on one tree, for us non-math whizzes!). Heidi and her team leave nothing to chance, and everything is meticulously stored, labelled and mapped out.

Work to prepare for Light Up begins in September with two and a half weeks of testing, going through the tens of thousands of lights to replace bulbs and sockets. Next, it takes three operators and a ground crew three weeks to dress the tops of the trees, and another two weeks to dress the bottoms. Add another one and a half weeks to decorate the famed Willow tree and other City facilities – and voila! If you lost count that’s about nine weeks of preparation – every year.

“Flipping on the breakers is when it really pays off for us. When we turn on the power and see all the lights in the park – it’s a WOW moment!” reflects Heidi. “It’s absolutely the best thing.”

In addition to Central Park, Public Works staff also decorate Rotary Park, the Protective Services Building, Spruce Grove City Hall, and City light poles. Many crew members are veteran decorators, but for newbies, Heidi has a good tip for getting the trees done properly:

“Decorate it like an ice cream cone!”

Apparently, a soft cone swirl is just the technique for tree-dressing like a pro. Heidi appreciates the attention the park gets even beyond Spruce Grove; people come from all over to take photos in the winter wonderland, share precious family moments and create memories in Central Park. Heidi has even seen marriage proposals in over a decade of working on the lights.

“It feels good to be involved in something that is so important to the community, and such a tradition,” says Heidi.

Once the lights are turned on at the Light Up event, they will remain on for the winter season – typically until the ice in the park’s skating oval can no longer be maintained (which is usually sometime in March).

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