Festival of Lights to run for 22nd season

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It’s that magical time of year when the streets and parks of Airdrie come alive with twinkling lights that showcase the city’s holiday cheer. One of the best light displays in the city is The Airdrie Festival of Lights (AFOL), which will light up Airdrie for its 22nd season Dec. 1 to 31.

Michelle Pirzek, AFOL co-ordinator, said although the society struggled to keep the lights on last year, the community stepped up to help through donations and volunteering.

“They’ve proven our worth and our value in the community,” she said.

“Twenty years is a long time for an event and it’s a great amount of time but things sometimes do eventually have an end, and I think the community said, ‘We’re not ready for it to end.’”

Updated provincial codes last year meant the society had to rewire its nearly 1,000 light displays to ground fault circuit interrupter. The requirement cost the not-for-profit society approximately $50,000, forcing it to spend half of its 2017 budget in 2016, according to Pirzek.

With the help of volunteers, the society was able to rewire all of the lights except for 100 to 200, she said.

“Now we’ve got some filler pieces that we’ll get to and every year it will just look like there’s a little bit more as we get these ones completed,” she said.

The lights run from 6 to 9 p.m. every evening in December at Nose Creek Park. New this year is a Canada 150 legacy path to celebrate Canada’s birthday.

“We will be lighting up the entire back pathways from the totem poles all the way up to the entrance by the bridge at the Catholic Church and so the arches will be dawned in red and white with the Canada 150 and Canada flags,” Pirzek said.

The penguin village display, which wasn’t rewired in time for last year’s season, will also be returning this year.

A grand opening event will take place at the park Dec. 2 following the Santa Claus Parade. Attendees will be treated to free train rides, entertainment, and the Canada 150 legacy path will be turned on for the first time.

Pirzek said cash donations are accepted at the gate throughout the season to help pay for the lights.

“Someone mentioned, ‘We always drop $40 in,’ and it’s great when we hear that because it means someone who can’t afford to make a donation can still enjoy the lights because those that can are stepping up and that’s what we need to continue,” she said.

Volunteers are needed to man the gates, sell hot chocolate and train tickets, drive trains and stoke fires. Pirzek said she encourages people to volunteer for “the warm fuzzies you’re going to get.”

“We are western Canada’s largest outdoor walk-through Christmas light display. There is literally something for every age and stage of life. It’s just a fun event,” she said.

“And we’re affordable…. We’re in an economic downtown right now. There’s not a lot of events out there for families that are affordable and we’re definitely one of them.”

Prices for hot chocolate and train tickets are still the same as they were when the AFOL opened 22 years ago at $2 each, according to Pirzek.

“We’re proud of that and it’s important to us that we continue that,” she said.

For more information and events lined up for this season, visit airdriefestivaloflights.com

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