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L.A. Beat

New ice sculptures a highlight of Nikka Yuko's festival of lights

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The lights are staying on at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens for their annual winter lights festival.Lee Ross installs one of his ice sculptures at the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens. Photo by Richard Amery
 Organizers were concerned new Covid measures would mean they would have to flick the off switch for their fifth annual Winter Festival of Lights..
 But the event will proceed as planned, including moving in new ice sculptures on Saturday, Dec. 12.

“We’ve been working with the City of Lethbridge and Alberta Health to work with these new restrictions,” said Nikka Yuko Marketing and Events manager, Melanie Berdusco, adding it has been a tough week, worrying about being  cancelled then having to  pull everything back together  again in a day to get things going.
“It’s one of the benefits of being an outdoor  event, so we’ve been working with Alberta Health Services. We’re excited to be able to do it,” she said.
“ There isn’t a lot to do anymore, so it is really important to the community,” she continued.

“And we’ve been sold out every night so far,” she continued.

Unfortunately Shakespeare Meets Dickens in the Garden as well as horse and wagon rides have been cancelled. Ticket buyers can still check out the  lights, but refunds are also available upon request.

Berdusco noted there are 167,000 lights for the fifth year of the event. There were 116,000 last year.
This year,  10 ice sculptures will be installed on Saturday, including three created by Calgary based artist Lee Ross of Frozen Memories as well as another seven  works from Lethbridge College Culinary Arts program students, for which Ross teaches an ice sculpture course.
“ We had eight, but one of them didn’t make it,” she said.

Ross’s sculptures are a massive bench emblazoned with  cherry blossoms and the Nikka Yuko Japanese Centre logo, a samurai warrior, visitors can be photographed with and the anime character Totro, which you can pose beside.

“ They will be interactive. A bench is built into one and you can put your head through another one and get your picture taken,” she said.
“It’s been a really tough year, so it’s nice to do something positive and bring some joy to the community,” Berdusco said, adding this is the second year the festival of lights have featured ice sculptures.

There are new rules to follow though.Seven Lethbridge College Culinary Arts students' ice sculptures are on display at the Gardens. Photo by Richard Amery
Masks or face coverings are now  mandatory  on the Nikka Yuko grounds, while they were only required  inside the visitors centre/gift shop. Masks will be provided free of charge unless visitors want to use their own.
 Guests may only  attend in their household cohorts. Guests arriving in larger groups will have to stagger their entry and keep two metres .
 Two cohorts will be allowed inside the visitor‘s centre at a time and guests will be asked to use hand sanitizer.
Capacity in the garden is restricted to 100 guests per half hour and guests are asked to limit their visit to  a maximum of 45 minutes.
All staff will be wearing masks and guests are asked to keep two metres apart from them.
 As  was previously, tickets must be purchased in advance and be ready to show staff for scanning.
Guests must arrive no earlier than the time on their ticket to comply with capacity limits.

 The festival  runs until  Jan. 30. Admission is  $10 for adults and $7 for children age 6 to15.

Children five and under get in for free, but all tickets must be purchased in advance, online through the Enmax Centre or  the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens website

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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