In the early 60’s the Mayor of Tampere Erkki Lindfors visited the Essen Light Festival in Essen, Germany, Tampere's twin city, and fell in love with the athmosphere the festival created. On December 6th 1965 the Tampere Tunnetuksi association was founded, its purpose was to organize the Tampere Festival of Light. The first Tampere Festival of Light took place in fall 1966 and it lasted for three weeks. Today people get to enjoy the illuminations for nearly 5 months.
The turning-on of the lights was a thrilling moment. Large crowds of people gathered in the city centre to attend the carefully planned opening ceremony. The programme included speeches and a parade, and, of course, people were finally able to admire the new illuminations.
Most of the light figures for the first Tampere Festival of Light were brought over from Essen. Some were also manufactured by the local electricity company Tampereen Sähkölaitos. The circus horse light figures were first seen at the Tampere Festival of Light in 1967. The following year the selection was extended with forest animal figures and two years later with snowflakes.
Tampere’s novelty was widely promoted in Helsinki, and those who traveled to the Tampere Festival of Light were able to purchase discounted train tickets from railway company VR. The event was a great success and it had the desired positive impact on businesses in the city centre.
Photo by Reino Branthin: The first light figures are being installed on 11.9.1966.
For decades, a Maiden of Light was elected as part of the Festival. Every year, a warm-hearted woman was chosen as the Maiden of Light to bring warmth and joy to Tampere’s dark winter.
Photo by Raimo Nieminen: Miss Festival of Light 1977 Maija Latvalahti and her runner-ups.