Woodlawn preparing for Festival of Lights

Woodlawn Regional Park is getting ready for the 2019-20 edition of Festival of Lights, which will happen in the second half of December and the start of January.

The Festival of Lights attracts local businesses and organizations who creatively decorate sites inside the Souris River campground using Christmas lights, inflatables and more in an effort to wish people a merry Christmas.

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The activities will kick off with the annual Christmas in the Park activities on Dec. 15 at 3 p.m. Highlights will include photos with Santa Claus taken by Durr Photography, road hockey with members of the Estevan Bruins, horse and carriage rides with Stan Milford and possibly another tandem, and free hot dogs and hot chocolate from the Southern Plains Co-op.

Activities will be happening at Doug Third Gymnasium in the northwest corner of the park. In previous years, Christmas in the Park has been at Rotary Hall.

A winter fireworks show will be at 6 p.m., and then the lights for the Christmas displays will be flipped on.  

“We’re hoping that we’ll have some mild weather for people to decorate their sites, and for the day of Christmas in the Park. That’s definitely out of our control, but that was a positive, contributing factor for the number of people who came out to the event that day,” said park business manager Maureen Daoust.

Last year’s Christmas in the Park attracted big crowds.

The Festival of Lights will run from Dec. 15 to Jan. 7. Members of the public are urged to drop by and view all of the bright and colourful displays.

Admission to the event is free, but a donation box will be set up at the entry to the festival for those who want to help cover the cost of the event.

Daoust knows of one person who lives in Alberta but has family in Estevan, and marvelled at the displays after seeing the photos. Another person she knows went through the festival six times last year and wanted to go through more often.

“It’s just the beauty and that joy of going through and looking at the different displays. It’s not a big sensation, it’s just the joy of being with your family or your friends or even sometimes by yourself and taking that drive through.”

On the nice nights, people would park their vehicle at the park entrance and walk through the displays. Any time anybody from the park was down there, they saw somebody enjoying the Festival of Lights.

“It put a smile on people’s faces, and gave them a good feeling in their hearts, and that’s awesome if we can spread that around during the season,” said Daoust. And being able to provide something for free to people who could be in need, it … can be uplifting.”

There isn’t a maximum number of entries for the festival. It drew 11 participants in 2017-18, and 25 for the second year, and they still have more room for growth.

“We welcome anybody new who wants to join. It’s just about getting vested into the spirit of Christmas,” said Daoust.

A couple of last year’s participants are unable to be involved this year, but want to return in 2020-21 because they had a lot of fun decorating as a staff and getting into the spirit of things.

The sites will have to be decorated by Dec. 14. Entries would be accepted until then, but Daoust cautioned that it takes a lot of time and effort to decorate an entry.

“For a lot of the entries, you can see that there’s a lot of thought and a lot of hours that go in,” said Daoust.

There’s a lot to do at Christmas time, but Daoust described the Festival of Lights as a great way to build camaraderie among the entrants and a great time for those who attend.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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