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Safety concerns dim holiday light display at CFB Esquimalt

Nov 24 2012
In 2011, the 24th annual Navy Lighting Contest attracted about 5,800 visitors, who contributed $30,724 in food and cash to the food bank. 

In 2011, the 24th annual Navy Lighting Contest attracted about 5,800 visitors, who contributed $30,724 in food and cash to the food bank.

Photograph by: Bruce Stotesbury, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

It will be lights out this Christmas at CFB Esquimalt.

After 24 years, the Navy Lighting Contest has been put on hold, due primarily to extensive construction at the base.

The decision by base commander Navy Capt Bob Auchterlonie not only affects the traditional display of decorated ships and buildings, it also means there will be no collection of food and money on behalf of the Mustard Seed Food Bank - something that has become a special part of the occasion.

Food bank director Brent Palmer said the contributions made by people taking in the navy lights have always been appreciated. Last year's contest attracted about 5,800 visitors, who gave a total of $30,724 in food and cash in exchange for admission to the base.

Auchterlonie said in a statement that safety was a prime concern.

"My decision is based on a number of factors, including the ongoing construction and renewal in HMC Dockyard, the ability for personnel to safely decorate ships near the work being done, as well as the unavailability of ships due to operational and maintenance requirements."

Palmer said the navy's move was completely understandable.

"I definitely would not want to see anyone's safety put into jeopardy," he said. "But at the same time, there's no question that it's disappointing and it will be a loss to us. We're working with the navy to see if we can come up with any other alternatives."

Palmer said that everyone involved in the food bank is thankful for what the navy has done for them over the years.

"We're very grateful that they stepped up to the plate."

While there will be no navy event, Palmer said the public is welcome to drop by the Mustard Seed at 625 Queens Ave. on Wednesday to see the site being trimmed in seasonal fashion.

"You don't have the ships but you've got the Mustard Seed," he quipped. "We're not going away."

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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