“It is going to be a major light display,” Doug McGill said about the winter village the Waterfront Commercial District Revitalization Committee is planning.
After receiving the go-ahead from Town Council, along with seed money for the project, it has been all hands on deck as the committee plans and works with the Town to make the winter village happen.
From the time it was brought to the table to now has been a relatively short time, as the committee agreed now was the perfect time to bring this project to life. However, McGill does say he has been trying to get the project off the ground for at least two years, but it was never the right time.
“It just makes sense to do something like this. In fact I think this is something that should have happened a long time ago,” said McGill.
The winter village will be a large scale light display on the pier in the provincial park. The plan is to start small and eventually expand to encompass the entire pier.
In the early stages, the plan is to start by decorating the trees and shrubbery in the front third of the pier, roughly the area before the volleyball courts.
Plans are still being hashed out, but Pam Mitchell, one of the members from the committee, says there are a lot of people who are very excited about the project.
“When talking with the Town, they had so many ideas and thoughts about displays and lights. They got on board very quickly,” said Mitchell, who added she is grateful for the support from the Town and Public Works.
Mitchell says she is excited to see the tree all lit up throughout the pier and believes it will be a great draw for people in the winter.
According to Charles Everest, chair of the committee, winter is a very slow time for Sylvan Lake and the businesses downtown tend to take a hit. A draw like this will, hopefully, bring people back downtown during the winter and maybe even draw in some tourists.
“I think this could really bring people in. We could even see people coming in from Edmonton or Calgary to take in the display,” said Everest.
Bringing in people from elsewhere is key. To do that there needs to be a hook of some sort, which is why the committee will be planning events throughout the winter months around the winter village.
For example, a ice fishing derby is believed to go over very well and bring in more people.
Originally the plan was to hold the display over December and have it as a Christmas Village. Though it was decided to expand the time frame to include as much of winter as possible to bring people into town to view the lights and take in some activities.
While event planning for the rest of winter is still under way, the committee has solid ideas for the holiday season.
These plans include selling sponsorships for planters which are decorated by the business or family who sponsor it.
There were only 20 planters available this first year, and were all sold within a week of the initial announcement.
“We wanted to keep them in the area around the park, and we weren’t sure how well the idea will take off, so we limited the number of planters for this year,” said Mitchell, adding next year they will look at possible adding more.
The planters will be part of a contest, where anyone can walk around the park and take in the the various decorations and vote on their favourite. Voting for the “planter parade” will be open from Dec. 1-19, when the winner will be announced.
The committee plans to hold bonfires on Dec. 9, 10, 16 and 17 between 4-6 p.m. at the winter village where special programming will be available.
“There are so many possibilities with this idea. I really think it is going to take off” said Everest.
One future idea the committee has is to place special lights under the skating rink on the lake, which will light up the ice from below, and can even be set to music.
The Town is excited for the new event, as is the Yuletide Festival committee, who are looking forward to adding the light display to a weekend full of events.
The light ceremony is planned to take place on Dec. 2 after the parade and fireworks.
“If everything works out the way we planned, the first works will end and the lights will come on in the winter village,” explained Mitchell.
The committee is looking for sponsors for the event, which will help it continue and grow each year. All sponsors will be recognized on a sponsor board, which will be lit up and displayed throughout the season.
There are three sponsorship levels available; $1000 platinum, $500 gold or $250 silver.
Sponsorship forms are available through email by contacting the Chamber of Commerce at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The winter village will open after the fireworks display on Dec. 2 and will stay open until at least the Family Day weekend in February.