The vandalism at the Winter Village in Sylvan Lake Park is “absolutely heartbreaking” and an “insult,” says Denise Bryan-Williams.
Sometime Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, someone vandalized the light display located on the pier.
The Winter Village Committee, made up of volunteers, local businesses and members of the Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce, were told a number of cords were damaged or broken, strings of lights were damaged and some of the light tunnels were thrown onto the ice.
Bryan-Williams, executive director of the chamber, says the extent of the damage is unknown, and is being assessed right now.
“It is really just, it’s so frustrating. It has been a really tough year, and we weren’t sure if we were going to even be able to get it up and running and then this,” said Bryan-Williams.
This year marked the fourth year for the crowd-favourite light display, which grows a bit every year. This year the Winter Village Committee added lights under the ice of the skating rink, to further extend the magic of the display.
The lights, and newly lit skating rink, have drawn attention from across the province.
Bryan-Williams says this year in particular visitors have been drawn to Sylvan Lake to take in the spectacle from across central Alberta, and even from Calgary and Edmonton.
“The response this year has just been phenomenal,” said Bryan-Williams. “It has been absolutely amazing. So many people have said how happy they were to see the display back again this year.”
Bryan-Williams has started a GoFundMe page to help raise funds to replace and fix the damaged display.
While the total cost of the damage is currently unknown, she says there is a lot to consider.
“What I think people need to realize [with the Winter Village] is that it is not a town initiative. We have to pay for the labour of the set and now for the assessment and fixes,” she said.
Bryan-Williams added, the Winter Village costs roughly $35,000 to run each year.
The cost is largely paid for by businesses, families and locals who sponsor the display, planter parade and downtown snowmen each year.
The GoFundMe, Don’t Cancel Santa – Light up the Christmas Village, is hoping to raise $10,000 to offset the cost to repair the display and light it up once again.
As of publishing, just over $800 has been raised.
“The money we raise will go toward replacing strands of lights and fixing the damage. Anything left over will go towards putting the Winter Village together again next year.”
Bryan-Williams is encouraging anyone with information about the incident to contact the Sylvan Lake RCMP.
“Whoever did this, you didn’t just vandalize a site, you took away some real joy from a lot of people.”
Bryan-Williams says the Winter Village will be turned off while the assessment is being done, however it will be turned back on once it is safe to do so.
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