Community support needed to keep Panorama shining

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A scaled-back Christmas Panorama was a success but organizers say it has never been more vital for the community to support the event to ensure its survival.

“We’re already planning for 2021,” said Lucas Wilson, a member of Panorama’s organizing committee. “We weren’t able to do any fundraising (in 2020) and we’re a little bit behind.

“It’s more important than ever before that we get support from the community. We want to get the festival back to its full glory. We just don’t have the money to do it.”

Organizers of the 60-plus year Simcoe Christmas tradition refused to let Panorama be another victim of the pandemic.

Instead of cancelling, organizers dug into old boxes of Panorama supplies and put together a drive-thru event that included the signature River of Lights and several metal light displays.

Although there’s no way of knowing exactly how many people drove past the displays, Wilson said on some nights there was a line-up of vehicles.

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But the holiday spirit didn’t end there. More people than ever (about 70) entered the Light Up the County contest, decorating their homes for a chance to win $250. An online map directed drivers to the displays.

And Wilson said many more homeowners who didn’t enter the contest strung up lights and other decorations.

“The street I live on, 70 to 80 per cent of houses had decorations. I think people just wanted to brighten up 2020.”

In a typical year, more than $10,000 is spent on Panorama lights alone, setting Wellington and Clifton parks aglow with half a million bulbs and attracting up to 60,000 visitors.

But the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of fundraising events, including a golf tournament that brings in about $12,000, used to generate funds to purchase new lights.

“In addition to the lights, we also spend thousands on paint, building supplies, decor and props for yearly display maintenance,” said Wilson.

Reduced funds and the inability to work on displays as a team due to pandemic restrictions made things challenging.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for donations to Panorama. Wilson said those who can’t contribute monetarily are encouraged to sign up as an event volunteer.

The Panorama lights were shut off in Sunday and volunteers, working with Norfolk County staff, will be removing the displays.

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