FestiLight began working with the Fairmont Empress in 2014, and it has been an exciting, creative journey from that point onwards. This world famous hotel, located in the heart of downtown Victoria, was built in 1908 at a time when the capital city was still in its youth. Now, more than a hundred years later, it is a world famous landmark, housing and dining dignitaries including Queen Elizabeth II and Justin Trudeau.
The Empress was purchased as a gift for his wife by Vancouver developer and philanthropist Nat Bosa in the spring of 2014. The plan was to update the interior of the hotel, as it had not been renovated since the late 1980s. This is a little hint as to why the journey has been so much fun!
That winter, Mr. and Mrs. Bosa planted a temporary skating rink in front of the hotel, as an “early Christmas gift” to Victoria. Our first season decorating the hotel therefore involved the lighting of a full size skating rink under a white tent. We hung an assortment of different sized white wicker ornaments above the rink, which were wrapped with twinkling lights for extra effect. The rest of the decorations that year included twinkling mini lights in the ivy around the veranda, and a full trunk and branch wrap of the giant tree at the corner of Government and Belleville Streets, as well as many other landscaping features around the property. The number of local visitors skyrocketed as people came from all over Victoria to go skating in the Inner Harbour. While the skating rink tent appeared white and simple on the outside, the inside was a winter wonderland of warm white light and ice.
In our second season of working with the Empress, the southern half of the hotel was under renovation, and many landscaping features on the property had been removed or changed. We learned in September of 2015 that the skating rink would not be returning, and that the ivy had been removed from the front of the hotel in order for mandatory masonry work to take place. This meant that we had thousands of lights in need of new homes on the property, which gave us a fun and challenging project. We decorated multiple new trees that year, and transplanted the white ornaments from the skating rink into the atrium on the Douglas Street side of the hotel.
Fast forward one year, and the southern half of the hotel is completely (and exquisitely!) renovated. After a summer of roaring business, renovations began on the northern half of the hotel, moving the entrance of the hotel temporarily to the southern side. This again meant that we had to change our design, as much of the northern half of the hotel was inaccessible to us. This allowed our team to get very creative, and put lights in lots of new places!
With the return of the “Festival of Trees” at the hotel, the interior decorations completed by our partners Greenscape Design and Décor, and our lights casting an unmistakable glow over the property, the hotel was bustling with activity all throughout December 2016.
Final renovations are set to be complete by June 1st, 2017, and we are so looking forward to seeing the new entrance of the hotel. A porte-cochère is being built outside the lobby, and excitement is already mounting at FestiLight about how we are going to light it next Christmas.