WAY TO GLOW
After devastating floods, Stanford gets some light relief — 70,000 Christmas bulbs, to be exact
The flood- and fire-stricken Overberg town has received a dose of cheer this festive season with a spectacular Christmas light installation.
‘Twas many nights before Christmas that Mother Nature tore into the tiny village of Stanford in the Western Cape with a flood that not only broke the 100-year Klein River flood line record, but brought with it a watery destruction of biblical proportions.
Insurance claims that tested, and still do, the fine print, slithery reptiles spitting where flower gardens once flourished, non-glorious mud gurgling in pipes, upturned fridges – working no more – and one helluva lot of dirty washing: It was hardly stuff to get the holiday spirit going.
But then, abracadabra, along came a Christmas fairy armed with a trillion coloured lights and turned the normally low-key village centre into a festive paradise almost overnight. The village folk were gobsmacked, never having seen the likes of this before. At best a couple of lit-up lobsters and an odd bird with lights missing was the sum total of Christmas twinklers.
Eskom will be happy to note that the light installation is almost entirely solar-powered, stretching the length of the main street.
Suddenly to be confronted with a pink rhinoceros in the dark of night, a purple ostrich and a bright blue giraffe was something else. Talk about painting the town red – this was like Disneyland on speed – not my quote, but somebody who had been there and done and had arrived in the village for a quiet weekend in the country.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Near-death drama in Stanford as Cape storm turns little village into a ‘frightening alien’ world
So, who, what and why? A national mega group that shall remain nameless – as it points out, it’s not about business but spreading good cheer where it is needed – gave Stanford a Christmas extravaganza that would knock the socks off the locals and anyone visiting the village during the holiday tourism season.
In fact, this unexpected present wasn’t really intended for this neck of the woods. But the disastrous storm in late September that all but obliterated 45 homes and had people scrambling to safety out of top-floor windows, others floating perilously close to death being swept away in their car and saved in the nick of time, changed things.
“We’ve gifted the town with a spectacular festive light installation to promote tourism and bring joy to the community, which is still recovering after being hit hard by the recent floods,” was the message to residents.
Eskom will be happy to note – or not, as the case may be – that the light installation, which will remain on for the festive season, is almost entirely solar-powered, stretching the length of the main street.
Whoever burnt midnight oil dreaming up all of this did an amazing job, with the dazzling illumination of trees, shopfronts, small wire farm animals, windmills, giant stars and a Christmas tree created with painted hats.
On my walk through I asked a little girl what she thought of it. “Love the animals. Did you know that when the lights go out they all walk home?”
No, I didn’t know that and I’m quite sure that the internationally sought-after artist Michael Methven who created these life-size animals didn’t know either.
Overstrand mayor Dr Annelie Rabie says she was “totally captivated” by the project. “Stanford has come alive with these beautiful festive lights. After some really tough years for this area, which has faced floods, road closures and fires, these lights have brought new energy. I am calling on the community to take advantage of this opportunity. Grab the chance that the new interest brings. Do not waste it. Let it be a spark that ignites new business in Stanford.”
The organisers also collaborated with Overberg artists to create beautiful picture windows showcasing their work within the light installation. I loved Marian Binder’s larger-than-life goat, whose wistful expression dominated the forecourt opposite an enormous light feature of a gift wrapped in a bow, which doubled as a street-side photo booth to delight visitors to the village. And there were hundreds of them who had come to see the lights and sample village fare.
A nice touch was that the vast installation brought job opportunities to many local people who helped with the set-up and maintenance of the installation. Almost 7km of LED lights and 70,000 bulbs have been used along the main street to create this visual spectacle, complete with a Van Gogh Starry Night display and Father Christmas throwing armfuls of sweets to the kids.
I wasn’t going to mention names, but what the hang! When Checkers’ twinkling sign is centre stage in front of the Spar building, you’ve got to say that the spirit of goodwill is upon us all – Xtra joy! DM
Liz Clarke is a freelance writer.
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, available countrywide for R29.