Festival of Lights alters its course to help congestion
The Festival of Lights will have a new ending point this year, as it altered its route to help mitigate conflict with the Old Town Auburn Country Christmas after the parade’s weather postponement pitted the two community holiday staples on the same day.
Instead of its usual finish at the Gold Country Fairgrounds parking area, a portion of which is reserved for a free Country Christmas shuttle service, the Festival of Lights will now turn off High Street earlier, heading up Pleasant Avenue and ending at the overlook, said Steven Galyardt, festival chairman.
The parade had originally been scheduled for Saturday, but a severe weather outlook caused organizers to postpone it until Dec. 8. It will begin at 5:30 p.m. and is expected to last until 7 p.m., while the Country Christmas runs from 5 to 9 p.m. with a shuttle service from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
“Moving the parade obviously puts stress on everything,” Galyardt said. “It’s an elephant in the room. It has 1,000 moving parts. … Trying to make sure it will be a win-win for everyone has been an incredible challenge, but everyone has stepped up to it.”
Country Christmas organizer Linda Robinson, owner of Sun River Clothing Co. in Old Town, said congestion at the fair grounds’ parking area had been one of her main concerns, and the new route will eliminate that potential problem.
Robinson said about 75 vendors are lined up for the event, which draws about 5,000 people per day – it also is scheduled for Dec. 15 – when weather cooperates.
Plans for it have remained the same despite the parade’s rescheduling, and she said she’s uncertain what other issues might arise because it’s the first time the two have coincided.
“That’s a big issue here,” Robinson said. “So it would have been wonderful had they communicated it to us before they made the decision. We would have appreciated that.”
The Festival of Lights will feature 110 floats and it draws anywhere from 12,000 to 20,000 people along the parade route, Galyardt said. It starts on Lincoln Way at Cherry Avenue and continues through Downtown on High Street and officially ends at Pleasant Avenue.
Gum Lane, a road normally closed to auto traffic that connects Belmont Drive to Pacific Avenue, will be opened to provide residents south of High Street that are landlocked a way to travel to and from their homes, Galyardt said.
“We have it manned so we will be able to let people in and out of their neighborhoods,” he said.
Jon Schultz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews