The COVID-19 pandemic can’t stop one of the biggest holiday traditions in the Stettler region, the annual Stettler Festival of Lights which will be held in the Stettler Community Centre Nov. 26, 27 and 28.
Committee chair Amy Roberts stated the pandemic has had effects on the planning and execution of this major holiday event. “Pretty major,” said Roberts by phone Nov. 12, when asked what effect COVID-19 has had on the Stettler Festival of Lights.
“We’re not having any of our events at the hall like previous years,” she said, referring to large social gatherings such as the Christmas tree live auction and gala evening.
However, Roberts said the committee, understanding the importance of the Stettler Festival of Lights to the local hospital, brainstormed ways to meet pandemic guidelines and still hold a successful event.
The event’s silent auction will go ahead and will also include the donated Christmas trees. The silent auction will be available online beginning Nov. 26 and continue to Nov. 28 at 8 p.m.
Community members decorating and donating Christmas trees which fill the community centre are reminded decorations must be wired to the tree so the entire item is mobile. Roberts said the committee appreciates those donating trees call ahead so the committee knows roughly how many trees will be involved. Tree decorators should call Roberts at 403-740-4740.
Roberts said committee members are already excited about seeing the community centre full of Christmas trees. “It’s going to feel Christmasy in there,” she said.
The annual quilt raffle will also be available along with several other fundraising raffles.
One event that’s evolved to defeat the pandemic is the Art and Cheer event, which will be “at home” this year. Roberts stated the event would normally be a social evening in the community centre, but this year Art and Cheer will be available to participants via YouTube.
She stated this year art kits for three projects are being pre-sold, each being done on a different night of the event. Two flower shops in Stettler, Vintage Thistle and Stettler Flowers, have provided kits, a live centrepiece and a Grinch tree, along with a third kit from Stephanie Hadley, a Christmas door hangar that artists can paint.
The kits are $50 each and must be pre-ordered by Nov. 20. Artists can pick up their kits at the community centre beginning Nov. 26 and organizers will send artists a YouTube link for their projects.
A very popular part of the Stettler Festival of Trees will go ahead, the Christmas festival market. Roberts said since the market will now be in the middle of the hall, there will be even more vendors available because of the increased space.
The committee is also offering Christmas photographs at the community centre. Roberts stated a Christmas scene will be available to have your photo taken with. Photographs have to be pre-booked in half hour sessions and cost $25 per cohort. Check the Stettler Festival of Lights Facebook page for registration details.
The committee chair noted all pandemic guidelines will be in effect at the community centre, and masks are optional. She asked all visitors to please observe social distancing and added hand sanitizer will be available.
Funds raised through the many activities at the Stettler Festival of Lights will purchase new equipment for the Stettler Healthcare Centre emergency room, a resource that can help virtually everyone in the community noted Roberts. She stated the committee has a target of $50,000 raised for this year’s event.
The committee chair stated she couldn’t believe the generosity of the community even in the strange pandemic year of 2020. “I am just so impressed, the donations are still coming in,” said Roberts. “It’s been a tough year for business.”
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter