Old traditions die hard, and that is doubly true when it comes to Scandinavian traditions. Still, it appears the annual Julefest celebration in Solvang will be taking a flight into the 21st century.

The City Council has thrown its support behind bringing a drone light show to Julefest, to the tune of a $110,000 contribution toward the airborne event.

It’s the city’s way of breathing new life into an old tradition, and is part of the general rethinking about how special events will be presented in the city.

Mayor Ryan Toussaint has been a driving force behind reshaping the city’s approach to special events, which began when the council approved cutting ties with the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and rearranging the city’s relationship with the Chamber of Commerce.

“At the end of the day, it’s really about the big picture and the vision we want to start installing,” Toussaint said.

Julefest will be managed by an outside company, IDK Events, and except for the aerial drone light show — a squadron of hundreds of drones called “Aurora Dronealis” — will keep many of the local residents’ favorite events and activities. The drone show is scheduled for the evening of Monday, Dec. 21.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from Dec. 3 through Dec. 26, trees and buildings along Copenhagen Drive between Atterdag and Alisal Road will be a glitter-fest with more than 100 high-output LED lights in a choreographed experience along the newly branded Danish Christmas Market. Sort of the Las Vegas approach to a holiday celebration.

Julefest 2019 will also include a daytime parade Dec. 7, a Saint Lucia lighted parade Dec. 13, the new Wine & Stein event, and an overhauled Santa Claus experience. In fact, there may even be a bit of snow in which folks can get a taste of real winter.

Or, you can stay inside well into the evening, as local merchants have agreed to keep their doors open to benefit Julefest celebrants.

That last part keeps the Chamber actively involved. Chamber officials also are lining up local acts that will juice up the annual tree-lighting ceremony.

But the drone light show may turn out to be the biggest draw. Officials at IDK Events say they’ve been contacted by out-of-town media that want to cover the event. That means more essentially free advertising to potentially draw in tourists.

The major stuff will be happening the weekend before Christmas, so local residents can expect a big crowd, weather permitting. That means lots of traffic, lots of strange faces and, most likely, a surge of retail activity that should make local merchants happy.

Attracting tourists is crucially important for Solvang, refreshing the city’s tax revenue stream through the transient occupancy tax for hotel rooms, and sales taxes generated by an influx of outsiders arriving with fistfuls of dollars. Maybe some big bills, too.

In a way, this year’s Julefest will help validate the council majority’s special-events reorganization strategy, which has had a mixed reaction from local residents.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with change, unless it’s being done just for the sake of change. In fact, Solvang has been in the process of changing for several years, getting more sophisticated — and some would argue more complicated.

How all this works out remains to be seen, and the success of Julefest may very well fill in some of the blank spaces. Meanwhile, let’s all just enjoy the arrival of the Valley’s most joyful of seasons. And give thanks that we live in this splendid place.


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