INNISFAIL – The town blocked off 49th Avenue on the north side of Main Street.
Citizens huddled around controlled bonfires. There was joyful Christmas music in the air. Couples danced.
From 5 p.m. into the early evening there was a distinct festival atmosphere.
There was free hot chocolate, cookies, and family activity kits.
The holiday season was beginning.
It was Innisfail’s annual Countdown to Christmas on Nov. 18.
“We close it down. That means we can open it up for the community,” said Kane Williams, the town’s recreation program coordinator of the 49th Avenue closure. “It becomes a bit of a block party.”
That party on 49th Avenue was underscored by a performance from the dancers of Joy’s School of Dance. They offered a welcomed abbreviated preview of Narnia.
While there was celebratory joy on 49th Avenue, the centrepiece event for the Countdown to Christmas event was on the north side of the cenotaph.
The Innisfail High School band was performing a selection of holiday season favourites when 6:30 p.m. arrived.
The time had come for mayor Jean Barclay to welcome the community, thank the many contributors to the event, and begin the countdown for the lighting of the tree.
“It’s not the same without mayor (Jean) Barclay leading the countdown. It’s so special to hear the reaction from the kids,” said Williams.
Barclay began by listing off the many holiday season events that are planned for the community, including the upcoming Innisfail Festival of Trees at the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre from Nov. 25 to Dec. 4.
She noted there was also the new Light the Night display at Discovery Wildlife Park from Nov. 19 to Jan. 15.
And, added the mayor, there is Hometown Christmas on Dec. 3.
Barclay told her audience the holiday season is also a time to reach out to others, especially the less fortunate in the community.
She reminded everyone the Innisfail RCMP will be hosting the 26th Annual Charity Check Stop on Saturday morning on Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Main Street between 48th and 49th Avenues.
As well, there will be the arrival of the CP Holiday Train in Innisfail on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 1:15 pm.
“Let's celebrate the magic of the season with kindness, generosity, and patience. Let’s not forget those who may be struggling and find a way to lift up their spirits this year. We have so many things to be grateful for,” Barclay told the assembled, growing audience at the cenotaph. “I know our community will, as always, demonstrate a willingness to do whatever it takes to help each other. That is what makes Innisfail a great place to live.”
The mayor then began a countdown.
The lights were then lit on the town’s fabulous holiday season tree.
It glowed brilliantly.
The crowd cheered.
And the music still played.