In the early 80's, I visited the Town of Simcoe (pop.14, 600), now part of Norfolk County, to enjoy their Panorama of Lights to look at the
displays with the thought of starting a similar display in Niagara Falls. As one of the original founders of Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights and the original 1983 Chair, I can confirm that this is where the idea for the now famous Niagara festival came from. However, Simcoe's Panorama of Lights, now in its 55th year, is much different. It has a quieter charm to it.
Bryan Cilken, Chair of the Panorama of Lights told me, "This is a grand old event that began when the floats from a Christmas parade were parked in our local park. Everyone loved it then and they still do." When I walked amongst the old fashioned 40 or so re-furbished wooden displays, I felt like I had walked into a child's story book. Thousands of LED lights reflected on the Lynn River that flows through the park. Tour operators dubbed it, "The River of Lights."
There was Santa in his sleigh ready to deliver millions of toys to children. Another display shows the jolly old guy and his elves in their workshop making the toys. Others include: "Rub a Dub Dub, Three Men in a Tub," "Three Little Pigs" and "Dr. Seuss's the Grinch that Stole Christmas."
However, the real reason for Christmas has not been forgotten. There's an open page of a Bible, explaining the meaning of Christmas and a three-dimensional Nativity scene.
The light display is found in Wellington Park near the downtown area, and it runs until January 6th. There is no fee, and the lights and displays remain on each evening from 5:30 until 11 pm. You can also enjoy free trolley rides on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from 6:30 until 9:30 pm.
As you meander through the park, listen to Christmas music in the distance performed by volunteer carillonneurs who play the 23 bells inside the nearby
Norfolk War Memorial Tower.
If you arrive early, check out the
Eva Brook Donly Museum, located in an 1845 restored Georgian-style home, the home of Norfolk County's Archives at 109 Norfolk Street. Admission is by donation, and it's now decked out in a Victorian theme. The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am until 4:30 pm.
When it's time to do a bit more exploring take a pleasant 10-minute drive to the village of Waterford found along Highway 24 North just outside of Simcoe. If you're hungry (I'm always hungry) and like Chinese food you won't go wrong by visiting
Yin's Restaurant. It's been feeding hungry people for 42 years. The meals are reasonably priced and the combination plates are huge (you'll want to share one).
Step inside Trade Winds Emporium next door for some eclectic shopping. Before you leave the village, visit their tiny small main street and the unique Old Country Store for a wide selection of antiques and collectables.
Norfolk Street Parade Dedicated To Petty Officer Craig Blake, Killed May 3 While Serving In Afghanistan
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.