LOWELL, MA – The mills along the banks of the Merrimack River once hummed relentlessly, turning out more textiles than anyplace else on earth. But that was a long time ago. Starting in the 1920s, the mills that had made Lowell an industrial powerhouse since the time of the American Revolution fell silent, leaving the city’s once bustling canal virtually empty. The waterway remained that way for decades until recent efforts to turn it into a tourist attraction began bringing people to the area. Now Lowell’s canal has taken another colorful step on its comeback trail, thanks to an artfully designed lighting display featuring COLORado LED fixtures from CHAUVET Professional.
Designer Brian Lynch of AE Event Systems in Chelmsford, MA created the display with 60 COLORado 1-Tri IP fixtures and 16 COLORado 2-Quad Zoom IPs. Using over 2,000’ of conduit, Lynch spaced the fixtures 30’ apart over a distance of 800’ running from Merrimack Canal through Lucy Larcom Park in downtown Lowell.
“The idea was to turn this stretch of the canal into a beautiful lightscape and draw people to the area so they can enjoy all of its new attractions,” said Daniel Bouchard, CEO of AE Event Systems. “Color from the Chauvet COLORados really transformed the area, giving it a new lease on life as a tourist attraction. People are drawn to the combination of colorful light and water.”
Lynch positioned the Tri IP fixtures across the water from the park with barn doors “to avoid blinding pedestrians.” Meanwhile, the 16 Quad Zooms were strategically placed uplighting trees on opposite side of canal. Custom made U brackets through the yoke were used to attach the fixtures.
The lighting rig was controlled with a ChamSys MagicQ Software and dongle via a wide temperature mini PC, along with two IP rated DMX amps. AE Event Systems Technical Director Duncan Mackinnon programmed 27 custom looks for the canal side lighting. “We’ll be changing the looks via an internal calendar control throughout the year,” said Bouchard. “These changes will be based on season, so for Christmas it will be red and green, and then red, white and blue for the Fourth of July and so forth. The system also automatically turns on each day a half hour before sunset.”
Initially it was projected that AE Event Systems would have the lighting system installed in six to seven weeks. However the install crew completed the project in about half that time so the lightshow would be ready for Lowell’s popular two-day Winterfest, which is held at Lucy Larcom Park. This feat was accomplished despite a sever snow and ice storm that hampered work efforts during the second half of the project.
“We had nice weather – 50°—the first half of the project, and then bad storms for the rest,” said Bouchard. “Dante Lorardo, our electrician, worked unbelievably fast to complete the project in time for the festival. We knew it was important to the town to have the lights on for Winterfest. The lighting has become a source of civic pride, which makes us feel very good about our work.”