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Day 274: Illuminations!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

According to the official website...

www.visitblackpool.com/s
ite/illuminations/history-
of-the-lights


...'Holidaymakers first tripped the Lights fantastic in Blackpool in 1879 when just EIGHT arc lamps bathed the Promenade in what was described as artificial sunshine.'

The idea came about because the resort was only busy during the short summers. The city wanted to have an attraction to draw tourists during the off-season. Hence, the Illuminations, which run from about the end of August - when kids go back to school - until about the first week of November.

They were halted in both the World Wars, but other than that, there's been a light show of one kind or another for 132 years now. The Illuminations are a lot more energy-efficient than they used to be, as they use 'cool-lights' and lower energy bulbs, and the organizers have arranged alternate forms of power (wind turbines are a biggie, as is hydropower) and computer microprocessors to reduce the power use. Blackpool claims that the Illuminations use only 'green electricity' now.

Each season there is a big ceremony for The Switch-On. A celebrity does the honors - mostly these are people I'm not familiar with. This year Leigh Francis was the guest of honor. I never even heard of him, and had to look him up to find out whether 'Leigh' was male or female.

As you start down the route, almost the first item of business is The Collection:



There's no admission, per se, just 'suggested donations.'

I think I mentioned in yesterday's blog that each year there's a new, major addition to the Illuminations. Because we don't go every year, when we do, we can spot the ones that have been added since our last visit.

I liked this one, which was simply labeled 'Bling':



This next one was also new to me. Each section of panels featured a famous person with various wigs, unusual contrasts, and bright colors:



It didn't do much for me, though part of that could be because so often I don't recognize celebrities from old British television shows or sports stars and so on. In this group there was only one person whose name I knew.

There are always a number of 'tableaux,' stage sets that sometimes have animatronics, sometimes have lights blinking in sequence to show 'action.' The haunted house set is larger than lifesize:



As is the Egyptian tableau:



One of the first I remember seeing is Alice in Wonderland. It was badly damaged in a windstorm a few years ago, so I don't know if they will ever fix it, or if it's been retired.



It wasn't on display Thursday night, so it's anybody's guess.

A line of panels:



Unlike the overhead light displays, the tableaux are always off to the side, along the promenade.

The Illuminations are often planned with a theme - a couple years ago, it was UFOs. They had some neat spaceships, but unfortunately I don't have any pictures of them, and I didn't see them this year. (I heard that Blackpool has set up the street that parallels the coast road with the 'leftovers,' the ones they don't have room for. We didn't go down that street, so I'm not sure.)

I found a picture of some of the 'spacemen' from the UFO season:



Some of the Illuminations are motorized. On the right in this photo you can see a lighted spiral - it's on a bracket and spins around:



Most of the 'moving' Illuminations are illusions created with sequencing lights. This light fountain:



...is probably as tall as a three-story building. In this section:



...the sequencing makes it appear that the cupids are shooting arrows, and the devils are tossing pitchforks.

There are several trolley-cars - trams - that run on tracks beside the promenade. Each season they too are dressed-up for the Illuminations. An elaborate boat:



An old-fashioned locomotive:



Another boat-tram:



And a bus done up as a Mississippi stern-wheeler:



This next picture is one that came from a Blackpool website. I couldn't get any photos of this display. Each of the orbs has a different pattern - some of them run in 'spirals,' depending how the lights are sequenced. Some flash, blinking off and on, and some change colors, while still others are static, but colorful:



I like the Union Jack orb. Himself's favorite is a stunt-motorcyclist who appears to run up a ramp then do a flip:



We had to take a second trip down the avenue because he missed it the first time and wanted to find it. That's the kind of thing that convinces me he's just an overgrown kid - which he is.

There's a tableau I enjoy even though it doesn't 'do' anything. It's quite large. It has figures depicting the four seasons. You can only see autumn and winter here:



And from the last time we'd gone are these stylized mermaids:



As much as anything, I like the lacy lights strung across the middle.

One of these years I'm going to have to walk along so I can actually take good photographs. Thursday night would've been the night to do it - it was so warm and clear. It was wonderful to see people out strolling around or sitting at sidewalk cafes. I don't generally like crowds, but it was such a pleasant evening I was glad to be with the human race.

And with that, I'm outta here - I'm tired as we spent nearly all day out in the yard. We figure we better make hay while the sun shines. I've started cleaning up the flower beds, but I don't dare plant any bulbs yet. It's still too warm for that. Record-breaking temps today for the first of October.

Goodnight, Sparklers, wherever you are!

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