AFOL welcomes new displays this December

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Although the holidays are still months away, the Airdrie Festival of Lights (AFOL) society is already hard at work preparing for this year’s month-long event – which, according to an announcement earlier this month, will include some brand-new displays.

“This year, new and exciting for us, is our Twelve Days of Christmas display,” said co-ordinator Michelle Pirzek. “It’s very cool, something that has been on our wish list for as long as I’ve been with the board – and, as I understand it, even from before that.”

The new, 12-component display will be set up close to where last year’s Canada 150 piece was installed, Pirzek said, meaning drivers passing by will be able to see the impressive new pieces from Main Street.

Along with this new feature, Pirzek said other smaller additions have been made to existing displays. The townscapes display will now include a new family of carolers, and an animated display of an ice-skating bear will be added to either the skating party collection or the winter wonderland, which Pirzek said are set up next to each other. Another animated display – a set of penguins – has also been added to the existing igloo.

While AFOL has remained western Canada’s largest walk-through Christmas light display, Pirzek said it has been 15 years since a new piece was added to the collection.

“It’s been a long time waiting for this,” Pirzek said. “Fifteen years ago, when we added a couple new skating party pieces, we had a couple thousand dollars worth of displays – now, we’re up to close to $40,000, so this was really major for us.”

Pirzek said part of the society’s goal is to stay fresh and ensure there is always something new to offer guests. Although the outdoor event continues to be a low-cost, budget-friendly activity for families to enjoy, she said the displays do eventually start to show signs of aging and need to be replaced.

“We want to make sure that we are sustaining ourselves for years to come,” she said. “The money we raise through donations gets invested back into our organization – but we do also give away a good portion of our budget to local outside groups, as well.”

Next up for the society, according to Pirzek, is focusing on long-term capital planning. While she admitted these investments won’t be as show-stopping as new additions to the festival, they are necessary to keep the event up and running into the future.

“We had to rewire all our displays to meet new codes back in 2016, and now, we are looking at updating our underground electrical,” she said. “Some of our infrastructure is reaching the 23-, 24-year mark, and it’s important for us to make some upgrades.”

However, Pirzek did add another goal for the society is to purchase another electric train within the next five years.

Volunteer recruitment for the festival begins in September, she said, and the society will be looking at securing sponsorships from local businesses at that time, as well. More than anything, Pirzek added, AFOL depends on community support.

“When people come down to visit us in December, be sure to stop and thank one of our volunteers,” she said. “It’s because of them that we don’t raise prices, and they make it possible for us to meet our goals.”

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