Commitment to the future of Wagga's Illuminate

CITY OF LIGHT: The Pembleton kids, Matilda, 5, Jake, 3 and Stella, 5, enjoy illuminating Wagga on Saturday night. Picture: Les Smith

CITY OF LIGHT: The Pembleton kids, Matilda, 5, Jake, 3 and Stella, 5, enjoy illuminating Wagga on Saturday night. Picture: Les Smith

Organisers have committed to the future of Wagga’s Illuminate, despite community backlash which dubbed the event a “failure”. 

The commitment comes after a public apology was made by organiser Tim McMullen after residents took to social media slamming the event, with promise of more lights and a free return ticket on its second day. 

“We’re planning to let the dust settle and then start planning, getting supporters and sponsors on board,” Mr McMullen said. 

“We will hopefully get people their free event if that’s what they really want.” 

Mr McMullen said despite negative feedback, organisers would work to grow the event. 

“We want to bring this event into the education curriculum, involving students at a primary, secondary and university level,” Mr McMullen said. 

“We plan to create a competition where every student develops a piece of lighting, to encourage young people to get involved in the arts.” 

The $10 ticket price was slammed by residents and visitors for the volunteer run event, with proceeds going toward the equipment and artists. 

“It’s never going to be Sydney’s Vivid because we will never have the funding or the amount of people,” Mr McMullen said. 

“The fact is the event drew from the cities and the outer region and the impact on Wagga’s tourism is what we are focusing on.” 

Wagga resident David Webster, who headed to Illuminate on Sunday night, said the festival was brilliant. 

“We decided to ignore the comments and make up our own mind about the event and I’m glad we did,” Mr Webster said. 

“It was a great idea with a beautiful atmosphere, hopefully it continues to grow.”

Mr Webster, who previously lived in Sydney for three years, said the intimacy of the Wagga event was more impressive than the millions of dollars spent on Vivid.  

“It’s a great venue at a good time of year - from little things big things grow,” Mr Webster said. 

Fellow resident Aleesha Lewis said she was disappointed in the event, calling for a new venue and a gold coin donation entry fee. 

“For an event called illuminate it was dark and the light displays weren't exciting,” Ms Lewis said.

“This is the first Wagga event that I’ve given bad feedback to, it was a good initiative but poorly planned.”

Despite Ms Lewis’ experience, she said she would give the event another chance next year, suggesting Lake Albert as an alternative venue. 

Mr McMullen defended the venue and said it was important to expose the area to tourists. “We want visitors to experience the Wagga Beach precinct,” Mr McMullen said.