By Janene Scully,
Noozhawk North County Editor
A Christmas-themed light show and a drone show filling the sky with lights dancing to music will be included as new attractions for the 2019 Julefest celebration in Solvang.
On Monday night, the City Council approved another $110,000 to pay for the added attractions.
Solvang would have exclusive rights for the drone show, dubbed Aurora Dronealis, for Southern California and Central Coast areas, and the first right for a repeat event next year by Firefly Drone Shows.
“This, literally for me, is the tent pole in Julefest to make this the most Christmassy town in America and keep that here,” Daniel Lahr, a representative of Julefest organizer IDK Events, said about the drone show.
Julefest is Solvang’s multi-week Christmas celebration — Nov. 30 through Jan. 3 — and will include new and previous events such as a parade Dec. 7 with entries still allowed to participate for free. Online parade entries are available by clicking here.
Acting City Manager Xenia Bradford said staff worked with IDK about adding the new events after council members expressed a wish for an attraction similar to the Cambria Christmas Market light display.
“This could be a great opportunity for Solvang to shine,” Bradford said.
The new attractions will put the Julefest celebration’s price tag at more than $200,000. However, officials said IDK Events would simply pass along the costs for drone and light shows, and doesn’t expect to make a profit on those. Sponsors will be sought to help cover costs.
The two attractions have different purposes, added Kady Fleckenstein, Solvang public information officer.
“For the drone show, it’s really about putting Solvang on the map, getting that extra PR and that branding, providing a service to the community, and again creating an event that can become sustainable over the years and quite quickly, because the value of something like this is so huge,” she said, adding that the unique event will draw families, technology fans and others.
The drone show, set for Dec. 21, would involve hundreds of unmanned aircraft flying in unison to create smoke-free and noise-free displays in the night sky. The show uses choreographed drones performing to music using the dark sky as the canvas for lights on the remote-controlled aircraft.
“Everyone’s going to come into town for that. That is an event,” Lahr added.
The light show on Copenhagen Drive would be part of the Christmas Market, encouraging businesses to stay open late for holiday shoppers.
“What’s going to draw people back over and over more than a light show that goes on four times a night?” Fleckenstein said, adding that it would make people choose to shop and eat in Solvang.
The light show using theatrical equipment to blanket trees and buildings will help create a Christmas Market mood on Copenhagen Drive, between Atterdag and Alisal roads.
Lights would come alive four times on certain nights for a choreographed experience to enhance the Christmas shopping experience.
Council members debated whether to approve just one show before ultimately deciding on hosting both attractions.
“I really do think we have to try it,” Councilwoman Karen Waite said. “I’m hesitant to spend the money, but I think we should try it.”
Mayor Ryan Toussaint said at recent merchant meeting showed support for both attractions.
“The whole thing is what are we going to do this year to try to make sure we raise as many sponsorships as possible … and what are we going to do to create something that eventually brings payback to the city for these events,” Toussaint said.
Joan Jamieson, a former councilwoman, supported bringing both attractions.
“First year. Try it out. See which one is more popular,” she said. “Of course, the drones will be out of this world, right?”
“I appreciate you recognizing the council’s desire to try some new events, see what works, see what sticks and see what doesn’t,” Toussaint said.