For the uninitiated, it may appear that Santa’s elves have been down at the St. Albert Botanic Park’s gift shop. There are no pumpkins or ghouls, as you might normally expect this time of year in a garden park, but instead, the little shop is lit up like a home for Christmas with bangles and beads and glitter – lots of glitter. Christmas in October runs for one week only, from Oct. 14 to 22, but the main elf, volunteer Diane Goodall, has been preparing for it since last winter.
Goodall takes almost childish delight in searching the internet and attending gift shows so she can find the nostalgic things that will make everyone who sees the store’s sale items say, “Aw!”
“My favourites are the snow globes. To me, snow globes mean Christmas,” said Diane Goodall.
Indeed the little botanic park shop looks like the inside of one of those snow globes and almost everything lights up. Tiny LED lights may be found lighting up equally tiny choo-choo trains, tree decorations and candles. The shop has goofy looking Santa figurines as well as gnomes and moose. There is even one moose which boasts its own set of leather shoes.
“Look! Real leather,” says Goodall holding one wee little brown moose shoe in the palm of her hand. The response is immediate! “Aww!”
For those looking for a chuckle, check out the barnyard collection of cows, pigs, sheep, penguins, hedgehogs and mice. All the animals are sporting hats or ribbons especially for Christmas.
For those wanting a fairy-tale Christmas, there are at least two kinds of fairy chariots and carriages, including one that would easily take up an entire coffee table. Elegant pewter reindeer and frosty-looking LED candles and bone-china teacups complete the scene. And for anyone with a Christmassy-sense of romance, there is a Santa-shaped ring box filled with a small chain necklace.
Everything that glitters may not be gold, except at this very successful fundraiser where sparkle translates into cash for the botanic park.
“The sale has grown and in recent years we average $18,000 per sale,” Goodall said, adding that in a way, the botanic park is a year-round gift to the citizens of St. Albert because it is free and open from sunrise to sunset.
The park is maintained by some 75 volunteers, who plant everything from trees to dahlias as well as maintain the perennial and annual beds of flowers and help build the new sidewalks.
“Money from our fundraisers goes towards everything you see from roses to dahlias. There is no charge for admission and the park is open year round. We estimate we have 14,000 visitors per year in the park,” Goodall said.
Christmas in October at the St. Albert Botanic Park gift shop takes place Saturday, Oct. 14 to Sunday, Oct. 22. That week the shop at 265 Sturgeon Road (780-458-7163) is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.