Fireworks light up Vancouver nights

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Posted July 28, 2014 by Julia Pelish in Beach Travel
Team USA put on an amazing display on Saturday July 26, 2014 the first of three international teams to compete at what is the largest offshore fireworks competition in the world. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

USA put on an explosive show Saturday night during the first of three evenings of pyrotechnics at the Honda Celebration of Light, the largest offshore fireworks competition in the world. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Story and Photos by Julia Pelish
Vacay.ca Visuals Editor

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — In Canada, the biggest fireworks celebration isn’t for Canada Day in Ottawa or New Year’s Eve in Toronto or Niagara Falls. It’s here, each summer, over the course of three evenings, with an international competition that is known to draw more than half a million spectators per night to the shores of English Bay.

Food trucks fed the beach crowds and boats dotted the bay as the sunset prior to the Honda Celebration of Lights fireworks show. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Food trucks fed the beach crowds and boats dotted the bay as the sun set prior to the Honda Celebration of Lights fireworks show. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Other cities have fireworks displays similar to the Honda Celebration of Light, but nowhere else in Canada is there a turnout like what Vancouver‘s competition enjoys. People crowd along bridges, stampede onto the grounds of Stanley Park, sprawl out on beaches on both sides of English Bay, and drive their boats into position hours before the show.

Team USA put on an amazing display on Saturday July 26, 2014 the first of three international teams to compete at what is the largest offshore fireworks competition in the world. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

The USA fireworks featured waves of beautiful explosions set to the sounds of popular music through the years. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

A total of approximately 1.4 million people are expected to attend the three-night pyrotechnic showcase that began on Saturday night and is considered the largest offshore fireworks display in the world. It continues on Wednesday and then wraps up on Saturday, August 2. This year, the United States, France and Japan will participate in setting off fireworks set to music. Three judges (often media members) evaluate the shows based on ingenuity, orchestration and simple “wow” factor and then vote to decide the champion.

At Sunset Beach the The Family Zone presented by Clearly Contacts provided fun activities fo kids of all ages including cultural entertainment on the SHOREFEST Stage. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

At Sunset Beach, the The Family Zone provides fun activities and free concerts. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Vancouverites and visitors to the metropolis, though, are the ones who win out. In a city that is often chided for its lack of unique cultural activities, the organizers of the Celebration of Light have astutely extended the event into a festival that includes outstanding live music, aquatic entertainment and good eats thanks to the participation of some of Vancouver’s top food trucks.

Neil Osborne and 54-40 played played an amazing free concert thanks to  Shorefest in English Bay prior to the fireworks. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Neil Osborne and 54-40 played songs such as “Sheila” and “Ocean Pearl” during their concert that preceded the fireworks show in English Bay. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Saturday’s kickoff featured a one-hour set from Vancouver-based 54-40, who sounded as polished as ever as they ran through hits that included “Baby Ran” and “I Go Blind.”

The BC Flyboard team entertained the throngs packing the beaches Saturday as they propelled high into the air and doing what look liked 'wheelies' on jets of water spray. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

The BC Flyboard team performed aquatic “wheelies” and other tricks as they entertained onlookers on Vancouver’s beaches during the Shorefest that coincided with the fireworks. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Perhaps the most entertaining part of the daylight events, however, was the wondrous and exceptionally cool water show by B.C. Flyboard, a group of daredevils who use a new form of water propulsion to soar several feet in the air. They glide like snowboarders, dive like dolphins and perform acrobatic tricks that make you first wonder how it’s possible and then decide you want to try it yourself. The daredevils were dressed in super-hero costumes as they leapt through the water and flew in the sky during the spectacle.

The BC Flyboard team entertained the throngs packing the beaches Saturday as they propelled high into the air and doing what look liked 'wheelies' on jets of water spray. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

The BC Flyboard team use water propelled from jet skis to go sky high. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

On opening night, the United States set their fireworks to musical hits that included the Doors’ “Touch Me” and the Beatles’ “Love Me Do.” It was a crowd-pleasing show as the music was heard through loud speakers in different areas of English Bay and was also broadcast on radio.

The bleacher seating in the YVR Observation Deck goes for $49 per person offering great views of the Honda fireworks barge, wine and beer purchases and rest room service. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

The bleacher seating in the YVR Observation Deck goes for $49 per person, offering great views of the Honda fireworks barge, and wine and beer purchases and (clean) restrooms too. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

The Vancouver fireworks show began in 1990, when it was known as the Symphony of Fire, and has increased in popularity to the point where residents plan house parties and scout out viewing locations days in advance. Organizers now sell bleacher-seat tickets and VIP tent spots for those who don’t want to elbow their way through the crowds to look. The bleachers offer excellent views of the fireworks and are well managed, so there isn’t the rowdiness you’ll often find among the beach crowd.

MORE ABOUT THE 2014 HONDA CELEBRATION OF LIGHT

Remaining Dates: July 30 (France) and August 2 (Japan)

The Keg Lounge on the Bathhouse Roof in English Bay offerered ticket holders VIP treatment during Honda Celebration of Lights including cocktails and live music. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

The Keg Lounge on the Bathhouse Roof in English Bay offered ticket holders like Emma Ghattas VIP treatment. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Location: English Bay Beach, Vancouver, BC
Time: The fireworks will ignite at 10 pm and there are warning shots 15 minutes and 5 minutes before the main showcase. Each show lasts about 20 minutes.
VIP Keg Lounge Tickets: $149 per person, includes two drinks, hors d’oeuvres and other food choices
Bleacher Seat Tickets: $49 per person (includes designated seat within prime view of the fireworks and sound system for clear audio of the music that accompanies the pyrotechnics as well as the bands that precede the show).
Attending On the Beach or in Stanley Park: You’ll have to bring your own seats (or beach towels) and remember no alcohol or pot is allowed in public. The police are out in force during the fireworks nights. Beachgoers had scouted out spots hours before the festivities on July 26, but you can walk down closer to the time of the fireworks and still find a decent view.
Upcoming Headline Performers: The Sheepdogs (July 30), The Odds (August 2). Both perform at the English Bay Beach Stage at 8:30 pm. Hey Ocean (July 30) and The Matinee (August 2) perform at 7:15 pm as opening acts.
Sunset Beach Stage Performers: Locarno (7:30 pm) and Spirit of the West (8:30 pm) take the stage east of the fireworks barge on July 30. Jon and Ray (7:30 pm) and Jim Byrens and the Sojourners (8:30 pm) headline the Sunset Beach stage on August 2.
Website: hondacelebrationoflight.com
Twitter: @CelebOfLight. Hashtags: #vanshinesbright, #celebrationoflight, #shorefest


About the Author

Julia Pelish
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A photographer who has worked in the largest media markets in Canada and the U.S., Julia’s travel photos and videos have been featured prominently in the Toronto Star and been exhibited in galleries in Toronto, New York and Vancouver. Her new line of photo jewelry was inspired by her travels. Even though she is an American, one of her favourite travel experiences was spending Canada Day 2000 on Parliament Hill, joining in a parade with then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien and others. Julia is Vacay.ca’s Visuals Editor. See her work at www.juliapelish.com/blog.

 
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