DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: They say that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” but, for the Uxbridge Optimists Club annual Fantasy of Lights this may not be the case with multiple business looking to set up shop in the Township and potentially piggybacking on the popular annual display at Elgin Park.
In a letter to council included in the agenda for a recent meeting, the Optimists Club put forth a request they have exclusive rights to stage local holiday light displays. Earlier this year a pair of businesses put forth requests to set up similar displays elsewhere in the municipality. While those operators would be primarily concerned with lining their own pockets, as the Optimists explained in their letter, the ultra-popular display at Elgin Park is put on entirely by community volunteers and in the past five years alone, has allowed the club to donate nearly $320,000 towards numerous community organizations.
The letter from the club outlined the strong connections the Club has built with local community groups through this event, and cast some doubt as to whether that could continue with other for-profit displays being allowed to set up shop.
“The support of the town businesses, service organizations, school and churches also help tremendously with making this a unique and special “town event” which many people have come to love and include in their Christmas traditions,” the letter from the Optimists Club said. “Because of the way we have been able to help these local organizations, we also respectfully request the Optimist Fantasy of Lights remain the exclusive lights event in Uxbridge. With the possible inauguration of other local light events, we fear we would not be able to support these groups as we have in the past.”
Ward 4 Councillor Willie Popp spoke in support of the work done by the Optimists, and asked staff prepare a report outlining the potential options for the township to grant exclusivity for the Fantasy of Lights event, noting it’s prudent that the township follow proper protocols.
“Clearly there’s been an abundance of new events cropping up in the area, looking to capitalize on what’s been going on,” commented Councillor Popp. “The Optimists have clearly demonstrated a commitment to this community which they want to stamp, let’s call it. And obviously we’re appreciative of everything [they] have done over the years.”
Mayor Dave Barton praised the Optimists, noting, “they are incredible partners and have been for a long time. However, he added, “my only concern here is legal, to be honest. Just to be sure that [exclusivity for this type of event] is something we can do. That’s the only thing. The Optimists have shown time and time again their hearts are in the right place, and their light displays every year get better and better.” Council unanimously approved the request for a staff report containing further information on the options available for the exclusivity request.
Later in the meeting, a report from clerk Debbie Leroux noted one of the applicants for a new lighting display in Uxbridge, Illuminations Lighting Inc., has decided to defer their request to host a holiday lighting display, near Zephyr, until 2024.
“Given the complexity of the requirements in the Special Events By-law and the narrow timelines to have the event up and running, [the company] opted to hold off on making application for his proposed event until 2024,” the report stated.
Leroux’s report also outlined “some items of concern” for the township regarding the application. The concerns included the fact that only on road parking would available for the event, a request to make the light show an annual event, and the fact no farming currently takes place on the property [approximately a 30 acre parcel] and therefore does not conform to the province’s guidelines for on-farm diversified uses.