The Honda Celebration of Light is always a highlight of summer in Vancouver. In fact, it’s been a feature of summer celebrations here for over thirty years.
A Little History
The fireworks, which were initially known as the Symphony of Fire, first started in 1990. It is now recognized as one of the longest running, off-shore fireworks festivals in the world. Attendance has grown to a stunning 1.4 million people. This summer, three nations compete on July 22, July 26, and July 29th with one being selected by the judges as winner. The winner will be announced on August 2nd.
The Celebration of Light is overseen by the Vancouver Fireworks Festival Society, whose main goal has always been to spark togetherness with this free family event. Archangel Fireworks are the people who put the pyro into the pyromusical shows that make up the Celebration of Light. The Archangel team works with the visiting national fireworks teams from each competing country. This year, Australia, Mexico, and the Philippines are competing.
While the range of fireworks used is essentially the same for each performance, teams design their own unique shows, and are allowed to bring any special items that may be needed for their particular performance.
While fireworks technicians will still light individual fireworks by hand, for a show of this size, with this degree of musical synchronization, the shows are programmed using GPS. The file of the performance is synced with the file of music, and what we see from the shore is, hopefully, a perfectly choreographed performance.
A small team of technicians does remain on the barge during the performance to monitor the fireworks. One can only imagine how spectacular the show must look when seen from directly underneath, with showers of sparks raining down from above. Concerns during summer in Vancouver could be either too much rain or too much sun but Archangel president, Kelly Guille, says there is no such thing as “too anything” when you have a good crew.
The firework mortars range in size that correspond with the size of explosion. The largest ones will cover the whole sky, while single fireworks, similar to Roman candles, are utilized for smaller, more exact effects. The towers on the fireworks barge are used for these individual mortars. The Mexican team, for example, utilizes eight to nine hundred. The explosive used isn’t gun powder but black powder, and the mortars are piled with sand to prevent any inadvertent fires or explosions. After the show, the team clears anything that might not have gone off.
A Celebration of Culture
The actual fireworks display is the pinnacle of each evening but the overall Honda Celebration of Light features live performances as well as food vendors. The Mexican and Filipino consulates have organized a lineup of exciting performances for each of their fireworks dates. The live performances take place from 2-8pm in Morton Park.
To feed the large number of people visiting the English Bay area for the Honda Celebration of Light, eighteen different food vendors will be setting up service along Beach Avenue. Some other additional food vendors will be in Vanier Park and Morton Park as well but the Beach Avenue gathering will have the biggest range of tasty treats. Delicacies from Japan, Peru, and Malaysia will be available, as well as tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches, hotdogs, and poke.
Where to Watch
Tickets can also be obtained for the special viewing platforms like Inukshuk Point, the Scotiabank Lounge, or the Concord Pacific Grandstand. The competition judges watch from the grandstand, so if you want their exact view, that’s the spot to be. Tickets to these viewing platforms include access to licensed bars, or complimentary canapés, with the most comprehensive package including beachside a dinner as well as drinks at Inukshuk Point.
Whether watching from the waterside or from a balcony, rooftop, or window, the Honda Celebration of Light will spark wonder. The last night of this year’s fireworks is July 29th.