INNISFAIL – As the autumn sunset rapidly gained momentum at around 5 p.m. scores of smiling Innisfailians, many accompanying super-charged children, had already arrived at a barricaded 49 Avenue to celebrate a welcome annual tradition.
It was the Countdown to Christmas event on Nov. 17 in downtown Innisfail that was held during the early evening with temperatures once again unseasonably above zero without a hint or a threat of snow.
But as daylight began to fade the cooler it became.
Town of Innisfail staff set up firepits lent by Discovery Wildlife Park on 49 Avenue for citizens to seize warmth.
Hot chocolate, cookies, and family activity kits were available. And there was holiday season music, and a 20-minute dance performance on 49 Avenue by young dancers from Joy's School of Dance.
The score of dancers, ranging in age from five to 16, performed five songs, including Rockin’ around the Christmas tree, Jingle Bells, Mary, Did You Know?, It's Christmas Time, and a final tune from How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
“We just like to do something with the community for them, and the kids get excited,” said Joy McIlwain, owner and operator of the local dance school. “It's a very different experience dancing on the street but they love doing something for the community.”
And then it was time for everyone to get ready for the event’s big attraction – the lighting of Main Street’s huge 30-foot tall Christmas tree located behind the cenotaph.
As preparations were made candy canes were handed out to children.
Santa Claus appeared to spread his cheer to the young and old.
The Innisfail High School Band, which had set up between the Christmas tree and cenotaph, played on.
Shortly after 6:15 p.m. mayor Jean Barclay was given a microphone to address the excited large audience huddled on and around the cenotaph.
The big moment was near.
The mayor thanked partnering organizations, including the Innisfail Public Library and the Family Resource Network, for their contributions to the event.
Barclay also acknowledged the hard work of Town of Innisfail staff, as well as volunteers from the Innisfail and District Food Bank and Christmas Bureau who are already doing their best to bring holiday season joy to the community’s vulnerable.
“Above all else let’s remember not just at this time of year but year round to be kind to each other, whether that is face to face or more importantly on social media,” Barclay urged the crowd, “Choose our words carefully. Think about how we can build our community and each other up, and most importantly let’s help others who may be going through a difficult time this Christmas season.”
The mayor then asked the crowd to begin the countdown.
The Christmas tree was then lit; radiant and gloriously adorned with a brilliant star on top.
The crowd oohed and aahed.
Innisfail’s holiday season had begun.