FOR FOUR decades Cape Town’s festive lights have bathed Adderley Street in a colourful glow as the end-of-year celebrations approach. And this year is believed to be the 44th consecutive year that the lights will be switched on, when the official lighting up takes place tomorrow.
Charles Kadalie, manager of public lighting in the city from 1999 to 2009, said the lights had been lit from the 1960s – with the city’s electricity department designing, building and installing them. An official would switch them on, but “there was no fanfare”, he recalled.
In 1999, when Kadalie started, he saw the opportunity to turn the switching-on into an event – and over the years it has grown in popularity, attracting thousands of visitors annually. In 2008, more than 100 000 people turned out to share in the celebration. Then, during Nomaindia Mfeketo’s term as mayor, the programme was expanded, with festive illuminations going up in townships around the city.
Over the years these lights have featured everything from animals and flowers to Christmas and even soccer scenes.
According to Kadalie, in 2000, following the Treasure oil spill and the fame of three penguins called Percy, Pamela and Peter, the lights featured marine scenes to pay tribute to the events of that year.
Tomorrow, Mayor Patricia de Lille will flick the switch that turns on this year’s display, which features themes including Cape Town – Africa’s Greatest City, The Musical City and A Bird’s Life. The planning and execution of the display has taken organisers and designers six months to complete.
The city is expecting around 80 000 visitors tomorrow, with events kicking off at 3.30pm. Activities include a carnival parade with floats and live musical performances by South African artists.
“A Cape Town tradition for over 40 years, the switch-on of the festive lights belongs to Capetonians and visitors. We have our people, our cultures, our heritage, our diversity. But we also have the privilege of one of the most breathtaking landscapes on earth,” De Lille said ahead of the event.
In recent years, said city councillor Grant Pascoe, the lights had also gone greener. “Instead of using 15 amp bulbs, we now use seven amp bulbs,” he said.
TEST RUN: Bongani Mkatini, of the city’s public lighting department, puts the finishing touches to the lights ahead of the switch-on tomorrow.
PRIDE OF CAPE TOWN: Cape Town Stadium takes pride of place in this year’s lighting display, as shown during the test run last week.