One of Vancouver’s premier annual events is the Honda Celebration of Light fireworks competition in English Bay in the middle of the summer each year.
Celebration of Light Fireworks Information
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Celebration of Light 2018 | Event Entertainment | Second Beach Family Zone | English Bay Airshows | 2018 Concerts | Second Beach Concerts | English Bay Concerts | Where to Watch | Celebration of Light Video | About the Competition | Fireworks Judging | Other Information
Celebration of Light Fireworks
The Celebration of Light festival features live music and a world-class fireworks competition with pyrotechnic displays by a different country each night.
In 2018 the event took place on July 28th and August 1st and 4th. In 2019 the dates are July 27th, July 31st and August 3rd.
The fireworks blast off at 10:00 pm each night, but there is also live music and other fun stuff starting in the early afternoon on all three days.
TOP PLACES TO WATCH THE FIREWORKS
For a list of best places to watch the Celebration of Light fireworks from, click Top English Bay Fireworks Venues. Our list is one of Vancouver’s most comprehensive!
Honda Celebration of Light in 2018
The Honda Celebration of Light event is amazing every year, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators on each of the three days. Music accompanies the pyrotechnics, and people can tune in from anywhere by listening to LG 104.3 FM on their radios.
In 2018 the Honda Celebration of Light fireworks were on Saturday, July 28th, Wednesday, August 1st, and Saturday, August 4th. Competitors that year were the following:
- July 28th – Fireworks for Africa (South Africa)
- August 1st – Unique Pyrotechnic (Sweden)
- August 4th – Dadhan Firework Co. (South Korea)
In 2018 the winning fireworks company was Dadhan Firework Co. from South Korea.
Celebration of Light Entertainment
In the lead up to the 10 o’clock fireworks, the Celebration of Light event includes lots of great entertainment. There is a Family Zone at Second Beach, evening airshows at English Bay, and outdoor concerts at various times at both venues.
Depending on where you go, there are also food trucks, exhibits and the occasional street performer or caricature artist. Around English Bay Beach especially, there are also gazillions of people on land and boats in the water.
Second Beach Family Zone
Each day of the fireworks festival there are family-friendly things to do at Second Beach starting at 2 o’clock each afternoon and running until 9 pm. Activities include face painting, games, jumping in the bouncy castle and listening to live music.
At the Second Beach venue there are adult-friendly things too. The live music is good for all ages – they aren’t just little kid tunes – it’s real music with some great local bands!
For concert details near the Family Zone area click Second Beach Concerts.
English Bay Airshows
A tradition at the Celebration of Light event, prior to the fireworks, is the Pete McLeod Airshow which features aerial acrobatics above the waters of English Bay.
It’s usually just a single plane, but fun to watch and visible from Sunset Beach to Second Beach and beyond. The best place to watch from though is English Bay Beach as that’s at the centre of the show.
The airshow usually starts shortly before sunset, which itself can be a spectacular event to see. On the Saturday evenings (i.e., July 28th and August 4th) the airplane entertains for about 15 minutes starting at around 7:45 pm.
On the Wednesday evening in 2018 the airshow ran from 6:45 until 7:40 pm and included multiple aircraft. Special for 2018, on that day, was a performance by the world-famous Canadian Forces Snowbirds. That indeed was a spectacular show to see!
In addition to music broadcast on radio to accompany the fireworks, live bands perform in the afternoons and evenings.
The concerts used to take place at Sunset Beach and English Bay Beach, but since last year much of the fun is in Stanley Park near Second Beach. Each day there is a variety of bands, with a special feature performance leading up to the fireworks each evening.
See below for the lineup of concerts at both Second Beach and English Bay Beach.
2018 Concerts at Second Beach
In 2018 bands scheduled to perform at the Second Beach venue included the following:
Saturday, July 28, 2018
- 2:00 to 3:10 pm: Nick Bike Redbull DJ.
- 3:15 to 3:50 pm: Alex Maher – a Pop and Soul musician and saxophonist.
- 4:10 to 4:55 pm: Sister Says – a Soul and Pop duo.
- 5:20 to 6:05 pm: Ashleigh Ball – a musician and voice actress.
- 6:30 to 7:15 pm: Bend Sinister – a Vancouver-based Alternative Rock & Roll band.
- 8:00 to 9:00 pm: Busty & the Bass – an Electro Soul, Hip-hop and Dance music Montreal-based group.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
- 2:00 to 2:45 pm: Nick Bike Redbull DJ.
- 3:00 to 3:35 pm: Music BC Contest Winner.
- 3:55 to 4:45 pm: The Hairfarmers – a pair of local West Coast musicians.
- 5:05 to 5:40 pm: Schwey – a Vancouver-based Soul band.
- 6:00 to 6:45 pm: Missy D & Friends – a Hip-Hop musician from Rwanda.
- 8:00 to 9:00 pm: Jully Black – a Canadian R&B and Soul singer and songwriter.
Saturday, August 4, 2018
- 2:00 to 3:10 pm: Nick Bike Redbull DJ.
- 3:15 to 3:50 pm: Niska Napoleon – a First Nation (Cree) singer and songwriter.
- 4:10 to 4:55 pm: Luca Fogale – a Soul and Folk singer and songwriter from Burnaby.
- 5:20 to 6:05 pm: The X Presidents – an awarding-winning Vancouver band.
- 6:30 to 7:15 pm: Dirty Radio – a local R&B, Dance, Electronic and Pop band.
- 8:00 to 9:00 pm: Five Alarm Funk – an 8-person Vancouver-based band.
Concerts at English Bay
Each year free evening concerts also take place at English Bay Beach.
In previous years there have been bands playing all evening at either Sunset Beach or English Bay Beach. This year though it appears that there is just one headliner band for each night at English Bay.
Below is who is performed on the Bathhouse Roof at English Bay in 2018:
- Langston Francis – performs from 8:30 until 9:15 pm on Saturday, July 28th.
- Francesco Yates – entertains from 8:30 until 9:15 pm on Wednesday, August 1st.
- Ria Mae – performs from 8:30 until 9:15 pm on Saturday, August 4th.
Celebration of Light Venues and Where to Watch
The Honda Celebration of Light daytime festivities used to take place along the water at English Bay, from English Bay Beach at one end to Sunset Beach at the other. As of last year, though, the main festival venue has moved to Stanley Park.
The fireworks are still set off from a barge just offshore from English Bay Beach, but they can be seen from miles around.
For a comprehensive list of best places to watch the fireworks from, click Top Fireworks Venues. For a brief list, see below.
English Bay Beach Views
One of the absolute top places to watch the pyrotechnics is from English Bay Beach. That’s where the sandy shoreline and nearby lawns are covered with a couple of hundred thousand spectators on sunny evenings.
As of last year the event’s main daytime festival venue has moved from Sunset Beach to Stanley Park’s Second Beach, but English Bay Beach is still the prime viewing location for the fireworks.
Premium Venues: If you don’t mind spending between around $60 and over $260, you can also reserve a spot and get special VIP treatment at a few different venues at English Bay Beach. These premium seats are expensive, but a great way to treat yourself, avoid the main crowds and have comfortable views of the fireworks displays. Most of the venues also don’t usually sell out, so you can often decide at the last minute if you want to use them.
From the Water: If you have a boat, you can be like hundreds of other Vancouverites and park your vessel in English Bay and see the fireworks from the water. This is even better than watching from the shore, plus you get to avoid the crowds and post-event traffic on the road. Not everyone though has access to a boat.
Other Pyrotechnic Viewing Areas
In addition to the main English Bay Beach venue, the Honda Celebration of Light fireworks can be seen from all around the various shores of English Bay.
Impressive views of both the fireworks and the city are at Second Beach, Vanier Park, Kitsilano Beach and Sunset Beach. Jericho Beach is a bit far away, but also a nice place to watch from a distance and admire the Vancouver skyline at night.
For a more complete and detailed list of venues to watch the fireworks from, click Celebration of Lights Fireworks Venues.
Honda Celebration of Light Video
Want to see what the Honda Celebration of Light is all about, including its daytime festival activities? Then check out the following 2-minute video.
About the Fireworks Competition
The Celebration of Light event has been running for close to 30 years. To be exact, in 2019 it celebrates its 29th anniversary.
Every summer, over the course of the three nights of fireworks, as many as 1.3 million or more Vancouverites and folk from out-of-town enjoy the festivities and pyrotechnic displays.
In an average year around 500,000 people turn out to watch the fireworks on each of the two Saturdays, with usually slightly more on the last Saturday of the event because it’s on the BC Day Long Weekend. Close to 400,000 people typically watch on the Wednesday.
With the fireworks competition, three international teams are selected and given a budget by the Celebration of Light’s organizing committee. The competitors then work with that budget, but have the option to spend more of their own money.
The fireworks companies are based in their various respective countries, although most of the actual pyrotechnic devices are manufactured in China.
In a typical night around 6000 fireworks are used, although sometimes, like with the Korean team in 2018, the displays can involve as many as 8000 individual fireworks or more.
The barge used for the fireworks is owned by Seaspan and is used solely for fireworks events, we understand, although not only for just the three Celebration of Light evenings. The barge is also used for Canada Day, plus likely other times when needed in Vancouver.
Setting up for the fireworks usually involves a Canadian team of ten or so pyrotechnic experts, from both Vancouver and other parts of the country, plus around four members of each competitor’s team.
During the actual fireworks event, just four people remain on the barge – two of the Canadians and two members of the international team – behind their computers inside a small building with bullet-proof glass.
On board and behind the scenes during the actual fireworks displays, it’s not uncommon for some minor things not to go as expected, or for the very occasional small fire to break out in places. For the most part, though, things run pretty smoothly, as evident by the visual success of the shows!
Fireworks Competition Judging
The main purpose of the Celebration of Light event is to “spark togetherness” and bring people together. It’s also a competition though, where the winning fireworks company gets valuable bragging rights to being the best.
Each year three different pyrotechnic companies compete, and each evening the respective fireworks competitor is rated by a panel of judges. The criteria for judging are the following:
- General Design and Artistry – 30 Points
- Synchronization of the Fireworks to their Music – 20 Points
- Originality of the Show – 15 Points
- Soundtrack Quality – 15 Points
- Overall Fireworks Quality – 10 Points
- Size of the Pyrotechnic Displays – 10 Points
For more information about this spectacular three-day event, check out the official Celebration of Light website.
For a detailed list of top places to watch the fireworks from, click Best Celebration of Light Venues.
For a list of other Lower Mainland fireworks displays at other times of the year, click Metro Vancouver Fireworks Events.
For a list of other major events of all different kinds, check out Vancouver’s Festivals & Events Calendar.