The OPG Winter Festival of Lights History
The Winter Festival of Lights was founded in 1983 by a partnership consisting of the Niagara Falls Canada Visitor and Convention Bureau (now known as Niagara Falls Tourism), the City of Niagara Falls, The Niagara Parks Commission and a number of private businesses in Niagara’s tourism sector.
The Festival was created as a way to extend what had for more than a century been a summers-only tourism season in Niagara Falls.
During those early years in the mid-1980s, the fledgling Winter Festival of Lights drew a respectable 250,000 visitors annually and around 35 motor coaches. Today, the Festival attracts 1.5 million attendees and over 400 motor coaches each year as Niagara Falls continues its evolution into a year-round tourism destination.
During its first season the Festival had a small collection of lighting displays located near the Falls, since then the amount of lighting has expanded greatly. Today the Festival features over three million lights along an 8km illumination route that travels along the Niagara Parkway through the Niagara Parks Queen Victoria Park, into Dufferin Islands and into the surrounding tourist districts.
The Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights operates as a year-round, not-for-profit corporation with a board of directors that still reflects the unfaltering support of its founding partners, with seats reserved for representatives of The Niagara Parks Commission, the City of Niagara Falls and Niagara Falls Tourism.
Over the years, the Festival has earned countless travel and tourism industry awards including Event of the Year, Top Festival/Event in Ontario, Best Volunteer Program, Most Innovative Partnership and the prestigious Events of Distinction Award from Festivals and Events Ontario (FEO). In addition the American Bus Association (ABA) has long recognized the OPG Winter Festival of Lights as one of its Top 100 Internationally Known Events (2005 – 2015).
In 2013, the Festival entered into a new naming rights agreement with a title sponsor, Ontario Power Generation.
Following the 2013-2014 season, the Festival created a new strategic plan and underwent a change in governance of its Board of Directors. The Festival’s new strategic plan outlined a three-year renewal plan in which the Festival will phase-in new lighting technologies as well as expand its illumination route into the BIAs in Niagara Falls.
In 2017 the Festival celebrated its 35th season! A research study conducted during the Festivals 2017-2018 season by Enigma Research Corporation found that the OPG Winter Festival of Lights attracts 1.647 million attendees annually with an economic impact of $56.4 million.