This year’s Yuletide Festival brought out a grand total of 5,484 people to NexSource Centre over Dec. 1 and 2, up from a previous high of 4,000.
Attendees were treated to performances by Sylvan’s own Ainsely Elisa, as well as C.P. Blakely, Steffie Woima and the Sylvan Lake Massed Choirs, on Friday night. Live musical contributions continued in the market place on Saturday with a guest appearance from up and coming country singer Alecia Aichelle and performances by the Friends of Music, House of Music and Jazz Explosion.
Saturday afternoon was busy at NexSource with close to 70 vendors at the market for people to get their holiday shopping done, free public skating, a Kidz Zone with a bouncy castle, visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus, gingerbread decorating and a gingerbread house contest. Teams were provided with gingerbread houses already constructed so all the teams had to do was add icing and candy and personalized items if desired. The winner was “Christmas in the Woods” with second place going to “Team DQ” and third place going to “St. Nixon.”
The evolution of Spirit of Sylvan
Counc. Jas Payne was volunteering at the raffle table on Friday night and shared how he became involved with Yuletide around it’s third year right after Kraft Hockeyville. He talked about the evolution of the connections that have contributed to the growth of the event and how many of the people involved with making Hockeyville a success were also key figures in organizing the first Yuletide festivals
Coun. Graham Parsons, long-time Sylvan resident, and one of the original organizers for the event was in charge of marketing and sponsors this year. Of Parsons, Coun. Jas Payne said,
“[He] didn’t really let me not come on (as part of the group),” Payne said with a laugh.
“I was kind of volun-told. Since then, year by year, it’s grown and as things have changed, like with the NexSource Centre, it’s become a bigger festival.”
As the festival has developed and added partners, the town has become a bigger supporter of the festival over the years.
“A lot of people think the Yuletide festival is a town festival but they don’t realize that the folks that organize this are here as volunteers, not because we’re attached to other places,” Payne stated.
Payne suggested that the kind of people who want to get involved with the town tend to be the kind of people who want to volunteer in other places as well. Payne spoke warmly of the town, sharing what he feels is the central point of the festival.
“Bringing the whole community together to kick off the Christmas season really is the purpose. It’s why we do it,” he said.
On Steve Dills’ role in Yuletide
The tree donated by Chief’s Pub and Eatery paid homage to former editor of the Sylvan Lake News, Steve Dills, and was covered with mini bottles of liquor. Several people throughout the festival mentioned the role he played in the community and how he attended as many events as he possibly could.
Payne also mentioned Dills as “instrumental” in starting the Yuletide festival, saying,
“We were all very close to Steve… [he] was a huge part of this in the beginning and it’s just been one of of those great things to see it since he’s passed away. Each year there still seems to be a presence of Steve here.”
Payne believes Spirit of Sylvan has been built up from the passion that was created through Hockeyville and Dill’s role in bringing that event to the town.
“We’ve never had an event that has brought the community so together, so completely, as Hockeyville did but since then we’ve…borrowed from the that passion, borrowed from that community spirit and it’s here, it’s in the Yuletide,” Payne said.
Fundraising for the community
In previous seasons the fundraising aspect of the festival has been focused primarily on Advanced Ambulatory Care Services (formerly known as Urgent Care). But as the service as “grown it’s own legs,” Payne sees the fundraising aspect of the festival turning its attention in a new direction.
“I see us moving more towards supporting Sylvan Lakers in a different way through the food bank, through the Christmas Bureau,” Payne said
The total amount raised over the weekend was well over $12,000 from initial estimates. The total raised will be announced over the next few weeks once all expenses are totalled.
Thirteen sponsors supported the event with thirty community businesses, organizations and individuals donating items for the raffle table and Christmas trees.