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Volunteers needed for Festival of Lights

In less than a month, Nose Creek Park will be aglow with the shine of hundreds of thousands of Christmas bulbs, when the Airdrie Festival of Lights (AFOL) gets underway Dec. 1 and runs every evening from 6 to 9 p.m. throughout the month.

An Airdrie tradition 24 years in the making, AFOL has become one of the city’s most popular annual events. The month-long festival boasts an impressive array of lights, according to co-ordinator Michelle Pirzek – though she’s not sure the exact amount.

“We know we have over 800 displays, and we know each display averages between 100 and 500 lights,” she said.

“We switched over to LED bulbs [four years ago] and thought, ‘What a great opportunity to get a bulb count,’ but it didn’t happen. I would love for anyone to come down and count our bulbs.”

Preparations are already underway for this year’s iteration, and Pirzek said volunteers are needed – particularly the weekend of Nov. 23 and 24, when the displays are set up.

“We always need people,” she said. “There are never too many volunteers, and the more hands we get, the less time it takes.

“There’s literally something for everyone and every ability.”

According to Pirzek, the 800-plus displays typically take 2,000 collective hours to set up. She said last year’s set-up weekend saw about 100 volunteers contribute.

“Some people came two days in a row and put in eight or nine hours each day, but if you only have an hour, I have things you can do for an hour,” she said.

“I don’t want people to feel daunted by [the idea] you have to put in 20 hours. You don’t. Every hour a volunteer has is another hour off of our board.”

The need for volunteers doesn’t end when set up is completed, Pirzek said, adding only half the volunteer shifts for December are currently filled.

“We need 15 to 18 volunteers per night for 31 nights,” she said. “When you break that down, that’s a lot of hours for a lot of people.”

Those interested in giving their time can find application forms and job descriptions at airdrielights.com

Along with the lights displays, AFOL also boasts a schedule of special events throughout the month. Santa visits will take place on six evenings, while the eighth annual Great Airdrie Train Race will run Dec. 19 and a New Year’s Eve dance party will take place Dec. 31 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Pirzek said she is most proud of keeping AFOL free to attend. While monetary donations are appreciated in order to support the festival’s general maintenance and upkeep, she said, there is no mandatory cost of admission.

“We know we’re in a tough economy, and there is no limitation on families to come out and enjoy a night of Christmas, lights and miniature train rides,” she said. “We’re budget-friendly and family-friendly.”

For more information and the schedule of events, visit airdrielights.com