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Holiday wonder at its best

Deck the Falls walking tour puts a décor spin on Niagara’s Festival of Lights

`Tis the season to be awed by heartwarming lights, sounds, tastes and smells. Add the backdrop of a roaring waterfall and there’s no escaping the wonder of Christmas.
That’s what organizers of Deck the Falls – a self-guided walking tour of beautifully decorated venues in Niagara Falls, Ontario – are counting on.

Part of the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights (WFOL), the first-time event kicks off this weekend and includes stops at 10 hotels (including Fallsview Casino), Table Rock, Scotiabank Convention Centre and Skylon Tower. The $45 tour pass provides sweet treats, warm beverages, and complimentary samplings of food and wine, as well as a ride to the top of the Skylon, a WEGO bus pass, Incline Railway day pass and a pair of signature Deck the Falls gloves. The real perk, says celebrity designer Jo Alcorn, is the chance to be inspired.

“There’s a beauty, charm and romance to this tour,” says Alcorn. “People tend to forget about Niagara Falls in the winter, but it’s absolutely stunning.”
Five of the lobbies featured on the tour were decorated by professional designers, including Alcorn, Nicholas Rosaci, Janette Ewen, Christine Dovey and Kasia Waloszczyk; the other five were assigned to teams of design students from Humber College. Courtesy of a Celebrate Ontario grant, everyone had a $10,000 budget to work with and was given the same specified timeline. The resulting themes range from ultra-modern to warm and cosy to woodsy.

Alcorn’s assignment was Table Rock where she took her cue from the gorgeous outdoor surroundings to create an indoor winter vignette grounded by wooden stumps, logs, birch trees and faux snow. “I treated it as more of an art installation and there’s a real mood and feel to it as you walk around the space,” she says.
If you want to decorate like a pro, that means thinking like one, she adds. “You don’t have to have a big tall tree; you can have a tree on a table or sideboard. It’s more thinking outside the box about where it’s going to fit in your space.”

One of Alcorn’s best holiday decorating tips is to pick a colour scheme and stick to it, avoiding what she calls “eye clutter.” Her pet peeve is garland. “That thin, thin garland where people just put up a bow isn’t working,” she says. “If you can double it up or mix some real greens in with your fake garland, it’s going to amp everything up and give you that wow factor.”

Though she finds all of this year’s designs stunning, WFOL executive director Tina Myers has two personal favourites: the classic feel of the wood burning stoves at Old Stone Inn and the wilderness theme at The Oakes. She encourages visitors to cast their own vote using the WFOL mobile app. The winning design will donate $5,000 to Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada and two student bursaries will also be awarded.

“We started three years ago to totally revitalize the festival,” says Myers, noting that Deck the Falls is a sign of things to come. “Our long-term plan is to grow it outside of the parkway and illuminate all of Niagara.”

Additional event highlights include a photo booth, a chance to create your own virtual reality masterpiece, a giant Lite Brite, a Christmas craft workshop and a dynamic sound and light show choreographed to the stellar sounds of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

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