OLDS — COVID-19 has forced changes to the 2020 version of Olds Fashioned Christmas.
For example, the annual Santa’s parade of lights has morphed into Santa’s Merry Motorcade.
On Saturday, Nov. 21, this drive-by event will occur through town, starting at 6:30 p.m.
To find out where it’s going, starting at 5 p.m. today, residents can check out the live feed from Santa’s Elves on the Olds Fashioned Christmas Facebook page.
Also for the second time, fireworks will be held after the parade at the Rotary Athletic Park, starting at 8 p.m.
This year, town council has agreed to foot the entire $8,000 bill for those fireworks so the Olds Fashioned Christmas Committee will be able to save funds for activities next year.
Council was assured that that bill could be covered via one or more of the town’s funds or reserves, including the Destination Olds Collective fund.
On Sunday, Nov. 22, a Winter Wonderland Walk through will be held at the Cow Palace Event Centre, starting from noon to 5 p.m.
This event is geared for children up to 12 years of age.
Children will stop at different stations to receive gifts and crafts. At the end, they can get a socially-distanced photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year, they won’t be able to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him their Christmas wishes.
There will also be a mailbox for letters to Santa.
Winter Wonderland Walk is a free event, but again, due to COVID, participants must have already obtained tickets for a time slot.
The deadline to obtain those tickets was Nov. 14.
Council made the decision to foot the bill for the fireworks during its Nov. 9 meeting.
During that discussion, community services director Doug Wagstaff pointed out that fireworks were also set off during Olds Fashioned Christmas a couple of years ago when fireworks planned for Canada Day were cancelled.
Wagstaff said details for the Merry Motorcade are “still under wraps – sort of gift wrapped,” as organizers figure them out.
He said the fireworks will finish off that evening “with literally a bang.”
During the Nov. 9 meeting council was told that options ranged from footing none, part or all of the bill for the fireworks.
Wagstaff told council that the fireworks supplier has a surplus of fireworks this year so they’ll get more for their money this year.
"A fire sale,” mayor Michael Muzychka said with a light laugh.
Coun. Wanda Blatz was among the councillors who favoured footing the entire bill for the fireworks this year.
“I think that this is a feel-good event that we really need, particularly when this is the most wonderful time of the year. Maybe we should make the best of it," said Blatz.
She argued this way, the Olds Fashioned Christmas committee will have some extra funds to plan next year’s events, and it’s unsure what 2021 will be like in terms of fundraising.
However, Coun. Mitch Thomson wasn’t so sure the town should foot that entire bill.
“My comment would just be that the committee has a good portion of these funds fundraised. They have some resources," said Thomson.
“I don’t know that the town of Olds needs to pay the whole thing when the community has funds and is willing (cover at least part of the cost).”
Coun. Mary Jane Harper made a motion to cover the entire bill for this year on the understanding this is a one-time gesture, due to COVID.
Coun. Heather Ryan echoed that thought.
Prior to that meeting, plans for Olds Fashioned Christmas came up during council’s policies and priorities meeting on Nov. 2.
Heather Dixon, the town’s liaison on the committee, outlined plans to hold the Santa Claus parade of lights and the Winter Wonderland Walk.
Discussion on the matter lasted about 36 minutes.
“Throughout the entire process of planning our group has been in contact with AHS (Alberta Health Services), making sure that everything that we’re looking at is as safe as possible," Dixon said.
Coun. Ryan was among those who sympathized with the desire to hold the parade, but argued it’s just too unsafe to do so in the era of COVID.
Hence organizers came up with the idea of Santa’s Merry Motorcade.
Dixon said organizers felt it’s important to stage events like Olds Fashioned Christmas, especially in a pandemic.
“Mental health has become an even larger issue during COVID and the committee felt that as much as we could do the event and the celebration, we wanted to provide that opportunity, even though it might look different to our community,” she said.
One idea floated to keep spectators and participants safe was to do a reverse parade, where residents would view floats from their own vehicles as they drive by.
Ryan was intrigued by that idea.
Muzychka was pleased that a way had been found to hold Olds Fashioned Christmas, although in a different way this year.
“This event outside of maybe Canada Day, is our premier event in the town of Olds and I’m glad we’re able to find a way to have it, albeit muted, during this pandemic," Muzychka said.