ACT News

Christmas celebrations spread cheer in Canberra as SIDS, Kids ACT and charities benefit

Canberra's Christmas celebrations in the CBD will undergo some tweaking for the future but have been judged a success with both charities and traders reaping the benefits and the national capital claiming another world record.

More than $200,000 was raised for SIDS and Kids ACT at Christmas Lights in the City during December.

Canberra CBD Limited chief executive officer Jane Easthope and SIDS and Kids ACT chief executive officer Lisa Ridgley ...
Canberra CBD Limited chief executive officer Jane Easthope and SIDS and Kids ACT chief executive officer Lisa Ridgley watch as the lights come down in City Walk on Thursday. Photo: Elesa Kurtz

Canberra CBD Limited estimated the festivities contributed $4.7 million to the surrounding trading area.

More than 10,000 visitors participated in the afternoon activities including camel rides, the animal farm, Flip Out and Asthma Foundation Kids Hub.

Close to 100,000 people passed through the tunnel gates of the 12 Days of Christmas display during the month-long event held in City Walk.

Other organisations who received thousands of dollars in gold coin donations made at the tunnel were the Canberra Hospital Foundation, ACT Eden and Monaro Cancer Support and the Asthma Foundation.

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SIDS and Kids ACT chief executive officer Lisa Ridgley said the money it received would be spent on services including likely another educator being appointed whose focus would be on teaching safe sleep practices to staff at Canberra daycare centres.

"We would really like to reach out to these centres and let them know we can actually attend the centres and conduct a class," she said.

Ms Ridgley said the service received on average two calls a week from someone suffering a loss including a miscarriage or stillbirth.

"I'm so grateful to the Canberra community and I'm thrilled with the number of people who travelled far and wide to witness this magical display," Ms Ridgley said.

Barrister David Richards was the powerhouse behind installing the Christmas lights – including the Guinness-World-Record-breaking Christmas tree – after his own family suffered the loss of their son several years ago.

He was still hard at work on Thursday pulling down the lights and enjoying a quiet sense of pride in what he had created.

"I always do. It would be hard not to. But when I say pride, it's not just me. There's a lot of people involved in it these days," he said.

Mr Richards said he wanted the Christmas lights to continue but was hoping for more assistance from the ACT government so it was not run almost entirely by volunteers.

"I'm 54 now and getting a bit old to be climbing up and down ladders," he said, with a laugh.

The attractions in the city in the lead up to Christmas also including Christmas Night Markets and Canberra Taste food and wine stalls.

Fiona Lester, who ran a market stall for her children's clothes business, Flossie, said she experienced record sales during December and the event broadened her customer base considerably, as a range of people were attracted into the city.

"Twelve days was long enough to forge friendships with other stallholders," she said. "I had an opportunity to meet loads of new small business owners through the markets and see what talented local folk we have."

Canberra CBD Limited chief executive officer Jane Easthope said planning would start in just over a week for next Christmas' events in the city.

"We'll get not just the people who were involved last year but some additional, creative thinkers to help us work out what exactly this Christmas Lights and Christmas in the City event is," she said.

"We just need a bit of a review of what it is. The camels have been around since 2011. Do we can continue? If we do, what do we do with them? Put them on at night-time? All those kind of things."

Ms Easthope said there were other markets on at the sometime, which created some competition for people's attention so that would be another area scrutinised. Another issue for the food market was a lot of families came in after sundown to see the lights and had already eaten.

"For us, we might shorten it and sharpen it up so the markets aren't there as long because Canberrans tend to say, 'Ill go later' and then they're over," she said.

Promotion of the festivities was also a critical area to revisit.

"Most people said they found out about it via social media and word-of-mouth," Ms Easthope said.

She also thanked the ACT government whose contributions included $195,000 to refurbish the Christmas tree before the lights, purchased by Mr Richards, went on.