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Sundown in Sundre introducing petting zoo nativity this year

Sundre’s annual shop-local event Dec. 1 offers community more than holiday deals and extended hours
TREE OF HOPE TLC – Innisfail resident and Fortis powerline technician Jay Kirkham, who works based out of Olds, tends to the Sundre Tree of Hope’s light strands on Thursday, Nov. 16 at the Myron Thompson Health Centre. Organizers said the LED lights are starting to wear out and hope to get an entirely new set in place for next year. Simon Ducatel/MVP Staff

SUNDRE – The community’s annual shop-local event offers residents more than holiday deals and extended hours at some local businesses in the lead-up to Christmas.

And while this year’s lineup of family-friendly activities this Friday, Dec. 1 for Sundown in Sundre include traditional elements such as horse-drawn wagon rides and photos with Santa Claus at the Sundre & District Museum, organizers also sought to introduce something new.

Sarah Henn, the Sundre & District Chamber of Commerce’s executive director, said she coordinated with partners from Camp Evergreen to set up a petting zoo nativity from 5-9 p.m. at the Freson Bros. parking lot, where there will also be hot chocolate and a barbecue serving some hot dogs.

Among the traditional aspects of Sundown in Sundre are: the Tree of Hope lighting ceremony, which takes place at the Sundre hospital starting at 5 p.m. with some members of the Sundre Community Choir set to sing some carols; the Festival of Wreaths silent auction fundraiser at the museum that runs from 4:30-8:30 p.m.; a vendors market at the Sundre Elks Hall that runs from 2-8 p.m.; as well as horse drawn wagon rides that start and finish at the Greenwood Campground park from 5-7 p.m.

As well, before settling in for the evening at the museum for family photos starting at 5 p.m., Santa will courtesy of an escort provided by the No Surrender Fire Services make an appearance at the ball diamond behind River Valley School at about 4 p.m. followed by a visit to the Sundre Seniors’ Supportive Living centre at 4:30 p.m.

Additionally, The Den - Sundre Youth Centre will offer a pitstop for hot chocolate as well as a decorate-your-own-cookie activity, with more hot chocolate and a fire to keep folks warm outside at the parking lot north of Back to the Basics and east of Centre Street at the intersection with 1st Street NW immediately south of the Bearberry Creek traffic bridge.

And as part of the shop local incentive, Henn said people will once again have an opportunity to search for the elusive elf on a shelf to be found at a number of local establishments.

“We have 15 businesses participating,” she said, adding numerous individuals offered to help or otherwise get involved.

“We’re appreciative of everybody who’s looking forward to this and helping out and sponsoring and doing what they can to be a part of it.”

Tree of Hope

While the annual Tree of Hope traditionally runs in conjunction with Sundown in Sundre, the ceremony serves not only as a beacon of hope for palliative care patients, their families and loved ones, but also as a fundraiser from the Sundre Palliative Care Association.

Blue bulbs are lit in memory of loved ones who have passed away, while red bulbs represent an expression of hope and support for those who remain with us.

But over time, the lights on the tree adjacent to the Myron Thompson Health Centre have started to show substantial signs of weathering, said Jo-Anne McDonald, Tree of Hope organizer who also volunteers for the association.

“They’ve started to age,” said McDonald, adding a Fortis powerline technician was recently brought in to ensure the strands were all properly connected.

“We had a couple of strands come apart,” she said, citing strong storms as the primary culprit.

“And it’s such a high height to try and fix anything; we can’t do it ourselves,” she said, adding that’s why Fortis was brought out to re-arrange the strands and ensure they all properly lit up for the ceremony.

“They’ve been really good lights. The ones we have now are LEDs, so they’ve lasted a long time. But they’re starting to break down; the plastic is breaking down, so we’re going to have to replace them,” she said.

That’s the goal for next year, she added.

“We’re hoping with some of the money from our Tree of Hope this year, we’re going to replace all of the light bulbs. But for this year, we’re just going to maintenance them one more time,” she said.

All of the funds raised are spent in town, with the bulk going toward supporting palliative care but also to offer education and development opportunities for hospital staff and volunteers, she said, adding a new couch for the family waiting room for palliative care patients was recently ordered.

McDonald also expressed gratitude for the committed contingent of carollers from the Sundre Community Choir.

“They’ll be singing a few songs for us,” she said. “It’s always extra special for those that are taking the time to remember loved ones if we have a little bit of music as well.”

Pledge forms are available at the hospital and some local businesses like Freson Bros. Visit for more information about the association. Anyone interested in getting involved is encouraged to email [email protected].

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct who is transporting Santa to the ball diamond.

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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