Thousands of sparkling lights will brighten St. Jean Baptiste Park in Morinville as Santa and Mrs. Claus throw the switch this Saturday for Lite Up the Nite Christmas Festival.
For a small town of 9,500 people, Morinville always does it right when it comes to launching the Christmas season.
More than 20 massive spruce trees and an equal number of themed holiday figures transform St. Jean Baptiste Park and Main Street into a scintillating winter wonderland.
“It’s colourful and festive. But it’s also calming. I’ve walked at night through the trails with my kids when it was snowing and it’s magical. And it really picks up the spirit of the season,” says community program co-ordinator Melonie Dziwenka.
The 19th annual festivities, running Nov. 28 to 30, are a much-anticipated, multi-generational outing worth planning for that attracts about 2,000.
“It is truly a family event. You will see families involved in every aspect. We’ve taken the spirit of Christmas and put it back into the community.”
Packed with small town hospitality, volunteers pitch in to provide a series of free events: a pancake breakfast, children’s activities, farmers’ market, a parade, light-up ceremony, fireworks, hockey games, a family skate, a movie and dazzling fireworks.
The Morinville Community Cultural Centre has also booked two professional entertainment acts. Hoja, popular a cappella vocalists, are slated to perform Friday at 7 p.m. while the zany Major Conrad Flapps steps up with two performances on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The kick-off on Friday prior to Hoja’s performance is the newly conceived Taste of Morinville – a mini version of Taste of Edmonton.
Half a dozen local restaurants have banded together to serve a diverse menu that ranges from risotto stuffed with beef and cheese to lasagna and cowboy chili. And let’s not forget the scrumptious desserts.
“We’re trying to do things differently and we’re having a very enthusiastic response. If we’re successful, we’ll look at doing a standalone,” says Laurie Stalker, Morinville Cultural Centre manager.
Tickets are $1 each. No menu item exceeds $5.
The Santa Claus Parade on Saturday is the big crowd pleaser drawing anywhere from 800 to 1,000 people. This year more than 20 floats will travel from the cultural centre to St. Jean Baptiste Park on 95 St. to 102 St. Hot chocolate will be served along the parade route.
“The street is filled and people are standing shoulder to shoulder,” notes Dziwenka.
Once floats have reached the park, the Clauses officially throw the light-up switch immediately followed by a blast of fireworks.
“We’ve shortened the fireworks this year to 15 minutes. Last year it was 30 minutes. People were lining up for the parade at 4:30 p.m. It was cold and by 6:30 p.m. people wanted to see some nice fireworks, but not for too long.”
Dziwenka encourages all families to drop by.
“It’s about doing things together and making memories. This is why we try to make it free. Anyone can come and make crafts or enjoy the entertainment. And during those fireworks, when you hear the ‘oohs and aahs,’ you can’t bottle that stuff.”
For a complete list of events and times visit www.morinville.ca.
Lite Up the Nite Christmas Festival
Nov. 28 to 30
Morinville Cultural Centre, Ray McDonald Sports Centre, Rendez-Vous Centre, Morinville Community High School