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First Light 2016


First Light 2016 attendance highest ever in the 17-year history of event! A total of of 15, 129 people attended, an incredible 33% increase over 2015!

The 2016 First Light event at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons has once again surpassed all previous records for attendance and economic impact to the Heart of Georgian Bay. The expanded dates and outstanding new partnership programming attracted repeat and new visitors from across Ontario. The Martyrs’ Shrine participated in the First Light event for the first time, and the path was opened up between Sainte Marie Among the Hurons and the Shrine.

Attendance was the highest it has ever been in the 17-year history of the event with a total of 15,129 people attending, representing an incredible 33% increase over the 2015 tally of 11,371 visitors. Food donations to Salvation Army Family Services from visitors also topped all previous amounts, with nearly 9,000 pounds of non-perishables donated by the community.

The total economic impact to Simcoe County was $1,250,109 determined with visitor data input to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport – Tourism Regional Economic Impact Model. Key drivers were:
• Food and Beverage at restaurants and bars; $370,807.
• Recreation and Entertainment while in the County; $354,713.
• Accommodation; $62,270.

This was supported by the sales of over 122 packages featuring accommodation, meals and admission to the event. In addition, 24% of visitors indicated they travelled from over 100 kilometres away and 61% noted they stayed in the community 2 – 4 nights to attend First Light. These high-yield visitors and great local support from Simcoe County residents drove revenue to direct and indirect tourism businesses, ranging from clothing and variety store retail to fuel and vehicle maintenance.

Accolades for the signature Sainte-Marie event continue to roll in:
• Festivals and Events Ontario “Top 100” event in the province
• Great reviews from visitor surveys, with 90% of customers ranking their experience as Excellent – 9/10 or a 10/10
• The very popular fireworks displays capped off Thursday evenings, funded by the generous support of local businesses

Mayor Warnock of Tay Township commented on the success of First Light remarking, “The Township of Tay is pleased to partner with Huronia Historical Parks to expand this amazing family festival to three weekends, allowing even more visitors to experience the historical Sainte-Marie among the Hurons and the magic of First Light.”

Next on the winter line-up for Huronia Historical Parks (HHP) is the exciting opening of the brand new Discovery Harbour Skate Trail. Come skate through our historic British military and navel establishment, and experience two kilometres of outdoor skating and entertainment for all ages. The opening of the Skate Trail marks the launch of many special events at Huronia Historical Parks during 2017 and the celebration of Ontario and Canada’s 150th birthday.

“Our world-class attractions, like Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, play a vital role in the province’s economic and cultural prosperity,” said Eleanor McMahon, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. “The success of the 2016 First Light event highlights Ontario as a leading tourism destination. I look forward to the exciting special events Huronia Historical Parks has planned in 2017 to mark Ontario’s 150th anniversary, which will continue to boost economic activity and drive tourism in the region.”

For more information about the Skate Trail and other HHP programs and events, please visit

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