Lights on Stratford

The winter festival transforms Stratford, Ontario’s historic square and parks with luminous art and interactive light installations.

Lights on Stratford in Stratford, Ontario (photo courtesy of Lights on Stratford)

The Lights on Stratford winter festival transforms Stratford’s historic square and parks with luminous art and interactive light installations. Free to the public, this holiday-season event started as a response to the pandemic’s effect on this tourism-heavy Canadian city. The idea was to employ people who were suddenly out of work, but it ended up turning into something lasting.  

For Stratford, which is located about 90 miles west of Toronto, summer and fall are the busiest tourism seasons, with theater lovers traveling to town for Stratford Festival performances. Lights on Stratford created a winter-season draw for the first time, with more than 80,000 people visiting the exhibition in 2021. 

The theme for 2022-23 is “Rekindle – ‘relight (a fire) or revive (something that has been lost).’ ” It focuses on the importance of rekindling a sense of joy, wonder and community. As during previous seasons, storefronts and locations throughout the city will be lit up with unique light displays and experiences.  

This year, Market Square hosts Brooklyn, New York, artist Jen Lewin’s “The Pool” — a field of 100 concentric circles that swirl with light when activated by touch. Visitors are encouraged to participate by walking, jumping or dancing to activate any of the circles. 

Tom Patterson Island, located on Lake Victoria near downtown, hosts an interactive light sculpture from Australia called “Affinity” that depicts the complexity and connectivity of the human brain and our relationship with our memories. 

The nodes in the sculpture light up and communicate with one another. When a visitor interacts with one of the nodes, it sends a color through the sculpture. The more people that interact with the sculpture, the more colorful it becomes. This year also features a new Made-in-Stratford Light Trail that connects Market Square to Tom Patterson Island. Lights on Stratford begins Dec. 16, 2022, and runs through Jan. 27, 2023. It is open nightly from 5 to 10 p.m.; 47 Downie St., Stratford, Ontario N5A 1W7,