The ECHO Energy stage during one of the annual Light Up The Night Festivals. (Black Press file photo)

The ECHO Energy stage during one of the annual Light Up The Night Festivals. (Black Press file photo)

Lacombe’s Light Up the Night will kick off the holiday season

The tenth anniversary of the festival continues with some COVID-19 safe changes

Along with many festivals and events in 2020, Lacombe’s Light Up the Night has been forced to adapt to an unpredictable year.

The annual Christmas festival will continue despite the global pandemic but with some key changes.

For starters, the popular Tim Hortons Santa Claus parade will be in a reverse style. Instead of encouraging gathering downtown, participating businesses will decorate their storefronts for people to view as they drive by.

“This year we’ve obviously had to go away from mass attended events only because we intend to ensure social distancing can occur,” said Guy Lapointe Economic and Development Manager for the City of Lacombe.

The businesses will be added to the online map of residences that are participating in the community lights and display contest. Both residences and businesses can fill out the online entry form to take part in the parade until Nov. 25. Families can then load up into their vehicles and drive around town taking in the displays.

The annual tree lighting also will not take place this year because of COVID-19 restrictions. The trees outside the Lacombe Memorial Centre (LMC) have been lit since early November.

Other events like the Christmas market, visits with Santa Claus and crafting have moved to a virtual platform.

“The farmers market was always very popular and now we have a virtual craft and gift marketplace that would make those items available throughout the holiday season,” said Lapointe

Lapointe added that though he is proud of how the organizing team has adapted to the changes, they will be happy when the festival can return to normal and everyone can celebrate the holidays together.

Jo(e) Social Media will be sponsoring an exciting digital addition to the weekend. There will be free virtual visits with Santa that parents can book for their children online.

There are still some in-person events like ice-skating, free movies and swimming as well as a drive-through Christmas brunch at Cilanto and Chive. Due to COVID-19 protocols, skating is limited to 50 people at a time, swimming will allow 60 people and the movie theatre will have rush seating up to a maximum of 100 guests.

Depending on a rise in active cases or additional orders from the province some in-person events may be cancelled.

There will still be a hayride on Nov. 26 but masks will be mandatory while riding and guests will need to provide their own blankets. The ride costs five dollars and there will be a maximum of 20 guests per ride, which will last 20 minutes and end with a light show inside the paddock barn.

This year’s moonlight madness will also continue longer than normal. Participating businesses will be honouring promotions for the entire weekend instead of just one night.

According to Lapointe one benefit of the festival becoming more online this year is that events can last longer than the traditional four days.

“We’re going to try and continue the holiday spirit even after the event so people should watch for some updates to the site,” said Lapointe.

“We’re adding a special surprise that I don’t want to tell anybody about right now.”

The festival will take place from Nov. 26 to 29 with fireworks on Cranna Lake on Dec. 18. A full schedule of events can be found online.