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Changes coming to Olds Fashioned Christmas event

Longtime volunteers stepping down, opportunities to get involved
web Olds Christmas-1
Olds Town Crier Denis Patry and his wife Judy make their way along the parade route during the Olds Fashioned Christmas parade last year. Patry is stepping down from the position. File photo/MVP Staff

OLDS - Changes are coming to the annual Olds Fashioned Christmas light-up event.

Some longtime volunteers are stepping down, and members of the public have at least a couple of opportunities to help get things ready for it.

Olds Fashioned Christmas — which includes a Santa Claus parade and outdoor and indoor activities at Centennial Park and the Big Rack Cow Palace Event Centre — will be held Nov. 23, starting at 3 p.m.

Town council was given an update on plans by community facilitator Heather Dixon and members of the committee during an Oct. 28 council meeting.

During that half-hour presentation, it was confirmed that Brian and Rita Thompson, who have been involved since the inception of the event more than 20 years ago, are stepping away from it. So is Lorraine Pillar, who has served as chair for the committee for years.

Denis Patry, who has served for years as the third town crier in the community's history, is also stepping down.

Council was told "succession plans" are in place to fill all those roles. In fact, there's a chance local drama teacher Rhonda West or one or more of her students might take on Patry's role.

Dixon as well as Brian and Rita Thompson pointed out there are several opportunities for residents to get involved in organizing Olds Fashioned Christmas.

Brian noted plans call for the Christmas village to be installed in Centennial Park today (Nov. 5).

Dixon said residents are invited to help out as Christmas lights are strung up in the park on Nov. 9, starting at 1 p.m.

"If they would like to come and help us put up the Christmas lights in the park they are welcome. We will be serving hot chocolate to keep little — and the large hands — warm," she said.

Dixon said going forward, a "visioning session" will be held in January to plan the future of Olds Fashioned Christmas, given the changes in volunteers.

"We will be inviting all stakeholders and interested community volunteers to this visioning session, so it will be open to anyone who is interested in attending," she said.

Council was told expenses for the event are expected to total $17,678.49. That includes costs for marketing, balloon twisters, a magician, materials for the Christmas village and outdoor lights, decorations, rental of a little train from Airdrie, and hay bales for the annual bale maze.

Rita suggested council may want to purchase its own train in the future.

Revenue is expected to total $17,850. That includes a $3,000 grant from the town as well as income from signs, donations from local businesses and funding from service groups.

Dixon said over the years, crowds participating in the event have grown from the 400 range in the '90s to more than 2,000 lately.

She said organizers are grateful for the equipment and employees provided by the town to help organize and run the event and added that given the changes coming in volunteers, organizers may ask town officials for more assistance in the future.

"(We want to) keep this event going because it's such a memory for all the kids in our community and the parents because it's so special," Dixon said.

On behalf of council, Mayor Mike Muzychka thanked all those involved in staging Olds Fashioned Christmas.

"It's amazing to think of how many man-hours and how many people it takes to put on this event," Muzychka said. "What a cornerstone to our community this is."

He especially thanked Brian and Rita Thompson for their many years of involvement.

"Everything that you do for our community is so greatly appreciated. There are not better people in this town than yourselves. So on behalf of council and especially myself, thank you so much," he said, spurring loud applause.

Council voted to receive the presentation for information.