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Athabasca’s annual Christmas Decorating Contest returns

Town councillors decided on new rules for the fifth iteration of the event
Residents at Pleasant Valley Lodge were awarded with the Town of Athabasca’s Christmas Decorating Contest award for businesses last year.

ATHABASCA — Ready, set, decorate! The Town of Athabasca will be hosting their Christmas decorating contest for another year, with some changes to the contest rules. 

Councillors discussed the contest during their Sept. 19 meeting, when they passed a motion to approve the 2023 Town of Athabasca Christmas Decorating Contest, and another to purchase two $100 gift cards for contest prizes. 

As usual, participants can apply for two categories: residential and non-residential. But this year’s contest will come with a few rule changes. Coun. Sara Graling was the first to offer suggestions about how councillors could be more involved in facilitating community participation after the topic was broached at a communication committee meeting. 

“We, as a committee, think it would be valuable for our council to each commit to a nomination or more, where we would be out in the community nominating somebody,” said Graling. “We could do it as a group, or we could do it individually, maybe with a partner.” 

The idea resonated with many of her fellow councillors. “We could do it as a social event, we could meet somewhere and go from there,” said mayor Rob Balay. “I kinda like that idea.” 

The contest was started in 2019, but Balay noted in past iterations of the holiday contest, participation wasn’t as widespread as council had imagined. “It hasn’t been as good as we’d hoped, I’ll be blunt,” he said in a Nov. 11 interview, noting several of the new rules are meant “to try and encourage more people to do it.” 

Council decided to include self-nominations for the contest, as well as neighbour nominations in addition to the councillor nominations brought forward by Graling. 

“I think (self-nominations are) fine,” said Graling. “People who are participating can participate however they want, is my opinion. We shouldn’t punish people for being engaged.” 

Online entry submission deadlines for residential and commercial nominees begins the week of Nov. 13, and will close Dec. 11. Dates for the nomination tour and judging tour are yet to be determined, but the winners of the contest will be announced at the Dec. 19 council meeting. 

Balay said hot chocolate for the judging tour is a must, and Coun. Dave Pacholok volunteered to provide Santa hats for councillors. 

Lexi Freehill,

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