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Westlock's Light Up kicks off the Christmas season

Everything from a parade, to dinners, family dances, free hayrides and photos with Santa came together Nov. 22

WESTLOCK - Friday night’s Light Up wraps up another successful week as the unofficial, but pre-ordained start of the Christmas season in Westlock.

Although holiday festivities got started around town Nov. 17 with the Skate with Santa, everything culminated Nov. 22 when the parade floats rolled through downtown to kick things off after sunset.

Light Up organizer Benita Pedersen got significant help from the community for the evening, with most events sponsored or hosted by a local organization or business.

“It is the volunteers that make an event like Light Up a success. Every contribution has value, whether it’s setting up decorations, participating as part of a parade entry, serving treats or refreshments, or facilitating an event. I am simply one volunteer of many,” she said.

Once the bright lights vacated Main Street, crowds made their way to one of three event locations within walking distance. Most of the teenage boys could be found behind the Home Hardware, in the parking lot, for ball hockey hosted by the Westlock Gospel Chapel.

Pastor Tim Gurnett supervised, hot chocolate was on hand, and a large pile of cleared off snow served as bleachers for the very few who preferred to watch instead of play — although most were just waiting their turn.

At Memorial Hall, it was an evening for the little ones. Pedersen DJed the family dance, which was mostly a crowd of very enthusiastic and lively kids jumping up and down. Three Vrozhay Ukrainian Dancers in full traditional garb helped guide some of the dance floor action.

Some kids focused on the corner where the elves parked their North Pole snowmobile and instigated a soft snowball fight.

No Christmas party can exist without Santa, who took his seat in the Elks Room after the parade to take photos with the kids. While parents waited in line, the Westlock Library kept the children occupied making Christmas cards and decorations, or colouring.

Nothing alleviates a cold day spent outside better than hot chocolate, even more so if it’s paired with cookies – the Westlock & District Chamber of Commerce (or Secrets, kids will get it) thought exactly that and had it all set up in the MacKenzie Building for the parade watchers (and floaters).

In the same room, the Westlock Rotary Interact Club set up their little elf workshop. The process was simple: the elves (Interact members) helped each kid decorate a bag, then went behind the partitions to pick out some presents, wrapped them up, and kids left with secret treasures to put under the Christmas tree for their parents.

“I encourage all members of our community to continually look for (and create) ways of enriching our community. For example, if you see something missing, initiate the remedy. If you hear of someone working on a community project, reach out and offer your ideas and assistance. If someone asks you for help, graciously accept that opportunity to help them. That’s community engagement. And that’s the spirit of Light Up,” said Pedersen.