New public health orders and business restrictions announced by the Alberta government Nov. 24 have resulted in the modification of this year’s Airdrie Festival of Lights, which kicks off its milestone 25th season Dec. 1.
Michelle Pirzek, the festival’s co-ordinator, said the event will be “lights-only” for at least the first two weeks. While the festival’s spectacle of Christmas lights at Nose Creek Regional Park will still be turned on in the evenings for attendees to enjoy, she said most of the festival's planned activities are not permitted under the new restrictions. These include the festival's activities tent, Christmas store, concession stand, bonfire pits and miniature train rides. Professional ice-carving demonstrations, which were scheduled for Dec. 5 and 6, will not take place, though festival-goers will still be able to admire the finished carvings from a distance.
“Our word for 2020 is pivot, and we’re learning to do it well,” she said.
Pirzek added there will be enhanced health measures in effect for those visiting the festival this month, including one-way traffic flow and physical distancing protocols. While masks are not mandatory due to the event taking place outdoors, she said attendees are encouraged to wear them.
“We know we’re outdoors and it’s not mandatory outdoors, but let’s everyone do what we can,” she said.
Volunteers will monitor the park to make sure people arriving in groups respect social distancing requirements and group sizes don't exceed 10 people.
“We want to remind those that are in groups of 10 that the recommendations still recommend maintaining two metres of distance if they’re not from the same household,” Pirzek said. “If everyone does their part now, we hope to be able to add some more things after Dec. 15.”
Volunteers will also remind visitors of the new rules and encourage them to comply, according to Pirzek.
“Am I looking to kick people out of our festival? Absolutely not,” she said. “I’m hoping they’ll comply and recognize we’re all volunteers, trying to provide a little bit of light in a dark world right now.
“At the end of the day, if safety becomes a question, we’ll turn it off, and we really don’t want to have to do that.”
Founded in 1995, the Festival of Lights is one of Airdrie’s most popular annual traditions. The yearly festival, which is held every evening from Dec. 1 to 31, sees tens of thousands of people visit Nose Creek Regional Park to check out the hundreds of brightly coloured Christmas light displays.
While the 25th festival might not be as grandiose as originally planned, Pirzek reminded people the Get Lit campaign is still taking place. Get Lit is a new initiative offered by the Festival of Lights in partnership with the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce and Airdrie Parades Committee. Local homes and businesses are invited to decorate their windows, doors and balconies with Christmas lights.
“Our goal with all of this is to connect our city one bulb at a time,” she said. “It’s not about the biggest, brightest, best or otherwise. We can connect our communities and our neighbours one bulb, one light at a time – let’s build that strand of lights.”
For more information, visit airdrielights.com