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.
In 2023 the fireworks happen on July 22nd, 26th and 29th.
Celebration of Light Fireworks Information
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Celebration of Light | Event Entertainment | Morton Park Festival Zone | Airshows | Fireworks Concerts | Where to Watch | Celebration of Light Video | About the Competition | Fireworks Judging | Other Information
Honda Celebration of Light Fireworks
The Honda Celebration of Light festival features live music and a world-class fireworks competition with pyrotechnic displays by a different country each night.
In 2023 the fireworks take place on the Saturday, Wednesday and Saturday of July 22nd, 26th and 29th. The event is absolutely amazing! Hundreds of thousands of people turn out on each of the three nights. You can watch the pyrotechnic displays for free from the beach and surrounding area, or you can spoil yourself and enjoy them from a number of awesome ticketed venues.
The fireworks blast off at about 10:00 pm each evening. There is also live music and other fun stuff starting in the early afternoon on all three days.
Participating countries in 2023 are Australia, Mexico and The Philippines. Each year the fireworks take off from the water by English Bay Beach.
For more information and tickets to premium venues visit the Honda Celebration of Light website.
TOP PLACES TO WATCH THE FIREWORKS
Premium venues to watch the fireworks from include Inukshuk Point and the Scotiabank Lounge on the Bathhouse Roof at English Bay Beach. There is also the Concord Pacific Grandstand. Tickets are available to the public as of April 27th. To learn more or to buy tickets for any of these venues, see the Honda Celebration of Light‘s official website.
Another great place to watch the fireworks most years is from a boat out on the water. To learn about those opportunities, see our article about Vancouver Boat Parties.
For details about these and other best places to watch the fireworks from, click Top English Bay Fireworks Venues. Our list is one of Vancouver’s most comprehensive!
Honda Celebration of Light
The Honda Celebration of Light event is amazing! It attracts 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 CFMI Rock 101 FM radio.
In 2023 the Honda Celebration of Light fireworks are on Saturday, July 22nd, Wednesday, July 26th, and Saturday, July 29th.
This year’s dates and competitors are the following:
- 22nd of July (2023) – Howard & Sons Pyrotechnics (Australia)
- 26th of July (2023) – Grupo AVACON (Mexico)
- 29th of July (2023) – Blue Peacock Fireworks (The Philippines)
In 2022, the competitors were from Japan, Canada and Spain. That year the winning fireworks company was Midnight Sun Fireworks from Canada.
Celebration of Light Entertainment
In the lead up to the 10 o’clock fireworks, the Honda Celebration of Light event usually includes lots of great entertainment.
In previous years, there was a Family Zone at Second Beach, evening airshows at English Bay, and outdoor concerts at various times at both venues. There were also food trucks, exhibits and the occasional street performer. Around English Bay Beach especially, expect to see gazillions of people on land and boats in the water.
In 2022 there were no activities at Second Beach. All the fun was centred around English Bay Beach. Last year the live entertainment and other activities took place near Morton Park which is at the north end of the beach. There was a music stage, an artisan market and activations. There were also evening airshows in the sky. We expect 2023 to be the same, although exact details are to be confirmed.
Morton Park Festival Zone
Morton Park’s address is 1800 Morton Avenue. It’s the park by the intersection of Beach Avenue, Denman Street and Davie (where the circle of giant smiling character statues are). This is where you’ll find the Morton Park Festival Zone where most of the festival’s pre-fireworks activities take place.
From 2:00 until 8:00 pm last year family-friendly things to see and do happened at Morton Park on July 23rd, 27th and 30th. It was an area where you could drink alcohol, but also take your kids. Live entertainment happened here. There were also activations and other fun things to see and do. 2023 will likely be similar.
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 a single plane that’s 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. A few years ago the event included an appearance by Canada’s Snowbirds, which was awesome! They were back again in 2022 on Wednesday, July 27th! The airshows are happening again on each night of the 2023 festival. Additional details, however, are to be confirmed.
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 then in later years at Stanley Park near Second Beach. In 2022 the entertainment happened at English Bay Beach in and around Morton Park, not at Sunset Beach or Second Beach.
At the festival there is usually a variety of bands, with a special feature performance leading up to the fireworks each evening. Live music also takes place at the Scotiabank Lounge on the Bathhouse Roof.
Details about the music and other entertainment for 2023 are to be confirmed.
Where to Watch
The fireworks are still set off from a barge just offshore from English Bay Beach, but they can be seen from miles around. Below are some of the best places to watch them from.
For an even more comprehensive list of best places to watch the fireworks from, click Top Fireworks Venues. For a brief list, see below.
English Bay Beach Views
Arguably the absolute top place 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.
At English Bay you can sit on the beach and watch for free, or you can pay to watch from a few exclusive venues. Because of the crowds and added comfort, the premium venues are well worth the investment!
Premium Venues: If you don’t mind spending between around $57 and $230 most years, you can reserve a spot and get special VIP treatment at a few different venues at English Bay Beach. These premium seats are a great way to treat yourself, avoid the main crowds and have comfortable views of the fireworks displays. Enjoying the evening in comfort can be a real treat! For tickets and full details about these venues see the official Honda Celebration of Light website.
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. For some 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. To learn about boat party events happening on the fireworks nights see our article about Vancouver Boat Parties.
To learn about the best places to watch the fireworks from at English Bay Beach, see our article about Premium Fireworks Venues.
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, Kitsilano Beach and Sunset Beach. Vanier Park offers great views as well, especially when the fireworks happened on July 27th 2022 at the Maritime Museum’s Evening at the Museum event. Jericho Beach is a bit far away, but also a nice place to watch from a distance and admire the Vancouver skyline at night.
Another great place to watch the fireworks from is Vanier Park, especially if you attend one of the Bard BBQ Nights when they take place. Bard on the Beach is where world-class Shakespearean productions take place in the summer. On the evenings of July 22nd, 26th and 29th, you can attend a play, enjoy a delightful meal and then watch the fireworks. It all makes for an exceptional experience!
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 video. It shows scenes of the event from July 23rd in 2022, which was the day when the fireworks came from Japan.
As you’ll see in the video, there is much more than just fireworks at the festival. There is live music, an airshow and a couple of hundred thousand people at English Bay Beach.
About the Fireworks Competition
The Celebration of Light event has been running for close to 30 years. To be exact, in 2020 it was going to celebrate its 30th anniversary. The hope was then to celebrate the anniversary in 2021. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The 30th anniversary was celebrated in 2022 instead.
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. Slightly more attend on the last Saturday of the event than the first 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 6,000 fireworks are used. Sometimes though, like with the Korean team a few years ago, the displays can involve as many as 8,000 individual fireworks or more.
About the Fireworks Barge
The barge used for the fireworks is owned by Seaspan. It’s 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. It also involves 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. They sit behind their computers inside a small building with bulletproof 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. Very occasionally a small fire might even break out in places on the barge. 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”. It’s also a competition though, where the winning fireworks company gets valuable bragging rights for 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 (or at least they were a few years ago):
- 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
To learn more 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 or Premium Venues at English Bay Beach.
To learn more about other activities taking place around the same time, see our July Calendar, August Calendar or article about the BC Day Long Weekend.
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.