The lead organizer of a popular Calgary holiday light festival is “devastated” after thieves stole about $10,000 worth of cords from the group’s shed.
Otto Silzer, chair of the society that runs the annual Lions Festival of Lights at Confederation Park, said park officials noticed suspicious activity around the group’s storage shed near the property’s west perimeter on March 3.
When Silzer investigated it at the time, he didn’t see much missing. But after returning to the site Friday to take inventory, he found all electrical cords and grounding cables were missing.
“This is the shack that we’ve been using for 34 years. We’ve had break-ins in there before, but nothing has really been taken,” Silzer said.
“(People) have been in there before, but certainly they have not taken any of the cords. But this time, they did.”
The stolen cords are used to provide power to various light displays throughout Confederation Park, each of which also needs to be grounded. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on light displays last year, the festival featured 500,000 bulbs on 16,000 strings.
The theft was likely carried out by someone looking to make money selling the copper wire contained within the cords, Silzer said.
“They were obviously after copper. Anything that was copper-related, they took,” he said.
“There’s a lot of copper thefts going on at the present time, so this is not unusual. And obviously, they know that we have miles of cords. There’s literally hundreds of cords up there.”
The festival society is volunteer-run and doesn’t have many resources, Silzer said, leading to questions about how they will recoup the loss, though insurance could cover a portion. Police are investigating the theft.
One local company has also stepped up to assist the lights festival, though it’s uncertain exactly how much the Good Samaritan will cover.
The situation is particularly disheartening because of the long history of the Lions Festival of Lights in Calgary as an annual holiday destination for many in the city, Slizer said.
“I was devastated that we actually would have to go through that,” he said. “(The cords) have been accumulated over 34 years. Now we have to try to reconstruct it in the next very short period of time if we’re going to put up a display this fall.”