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Burnaby wants to be Halloweentown

Tourism Burnaby hatches ambitious plan to get visitors and unite the city.
Tourism Burnaby's Burnaby Halloween Festival is aimed at drawing visitors from across a wide spectrum of city residents.

Tourism Burnaby plans to put on the largest festival in Canada this coming October, with an eye to create over 50 events across the city by 2027, to attract visitors and unite the municipality.

The purpose of 2023’s Burnaby Halloween Festival is to bring serious crowds to the city, according to Chris Peters, Tourism Burnaby’s executive director. Last year’s events “generated about five-to-six million in economic benefit to Burnaby,” Peters said.

“So, we’re looking to increase that by about tenfold,” he said, “so that the festival would drive anywhere from $50 million to $75 million in economic benefit by 2027.”

The events would be held in all different parts of the city, and the festival will hold a residential decorating contest, to include as many Burnaby residents as possible.

Peters sees the festival as a way to unite the diverse community — as of 2021’s census, 57.2 percent of Burnaby’s population are immigrants — “bringing together citizens from all different ethnicities, different neighborhoods.”

Halloween is a largely secular holiday, he noted, with few barriers to entry.

“At the base-level it takes some cat ears and some mascara and you’re a bona fide Halloweener,” he said. “It takes nothing to join in. No learning curve to dress up. It can be scary; it can be funny. It doesn’t really exclude anyone.”

According to a report from the city's Parks, Recreation and Culture Commission, inspiration for the festival came from Derry in Northern Ireland, where dramatic Halloween celebrations are a long-standing attraction. In 2019, a delegation of Burnaby councillors and Tourism Burnaby staff travelled to Derry to scope out their event. After they returned, “plans were launched for a version of the Derry experience” the report said, but restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic thwarted those plans until now. Last year’s Halloween attractions, which included a spooky virtual experience put on by Burnaby Heritage Museum, were a smaller-scale test case for Halloween 2023.

The council report also notes that the city previously considered a multi-day Halloween festival at Metrotown but decided it would be too expensive and logistically challenging. Although city staff participated in the 2019 trip, Tourism Burnaby will be spearheading this year’s celebrations, and plans are already in motion.

A 5 km monster dash will be held on October 29, and applications are open for grants to put on other events, according to The website also has information on a contest for the best house decorations with a cash prize and a grant of $350 to help with the cost of decorating.