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Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden launches booking for Winter Light Festival, announces new displays

Michelle Day, executive director of the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, says they hope to welcome at least 15,000 visitors to their Winter Light Festival starting December 3.
Michelle Day, executive director of the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, says they hope to welcome at least 15,000 visitors to their Winter Light Festival starting December 3. Eloise Therien / Global News

The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in Lethbridge will be hosting its fifth annual Winter Light Festival starting on Dec. 3. The festival typically welcomes thousands of people to an immersive light display during the holiday season, but will look different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Usually, the festival has no capacity limit, but this year a maximum of 100 visitors will be allowed per half hour. Tickets must be booked in advance on the garden’s website, as no walk ins will be accommodated.

Read more: Southern Alberta tourist attractions see more local visitors amid continued Canada-U.S. border closures

Up to 500 people could be seen in a single hour previous years, and executive director Michelle Day hopes this method of booking will not only keep everyone safe, but enhance the experience as well.

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“This will be able to give people a more intimate experience of the garden,” she said. “Last year, we were mainly a Thursday, Friday, Saturday experience. This year, there are some weeks that we’re open seven days a week. So we’re hoping, by (spacing) out the number of people at a time that we’ll meet everybody’s needs.”

Panasonic, a Japanese company, is the title sponsor for this year’s festival as part of its cultural institution partnership program.

“It was with great delight that I could bring that to Lethbridge, and connect with Michelle and offer that to this venue, because it’s such a beautiful venue,” Connie McEgan with Panasonic Canada said.

Read more: Lethbridge’s Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden calls 2020 Winter Lights Festival very successful

Their partnership with Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden has allowed for a new, unique animated light display created by Lethbridge CG-Generalist and compositing artist Keith Morgan to be showcased.

Panasonic has provided several projectors to tell a short story throughout the garden’s one-way path, as well as to project Koi fish into a pond.

“It’s about a student named Yuki, and as you go through the garden, the five projections that you’re going to see is one minute episodes to five episodes that tell the short story, but it leads into a larger picture story,” Day explained.

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The Winter Light Festival will run until Jan. 30, with staff hoping to see around 15,000 visitors experience the garden.