Volunteers ready to light up High River

Flood 2013: Downtown to be decorated for annual Santa parade

By: John Barlow

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Nov 27, 2013 08:28 am

Rona Black Diamond store owner Robbie McKay shows off some lights that can be donated to the Light Up High River effort at his store on Monday afternoon.
Rona Black Diamond store owner Robbie McKay shows off some lights that can be donated to the Light Up High River effort at his store on Monday afternoon.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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It may not look like right now, but volunteers are hoping downtown High River will start to look a lot like Christmas this weekend.

With High River’s renowned Santa Claus Parade scheduled for Dec. 6 it did not look as though downtown would have much of a festive feel as the vast majority of the businesses remain boarded up and the streets deserted.

For a group of volunteers this just would not do and an initiative, Light Up High River, has taken shape. Volunteers, staff from Rona and local business owners will out in force on Saturday decorating the downtown businesses with donated Christmas decorations to ensure High River will shine in festive glory for the Santa Claus Parade.

For Bob Dunlop, owners of Summit Physiotherapy in High River, the Light Up initiative will have an incredible impact on the community still trying to recover from the devastating June flood.

“This will be amazing,” said Dunlop. “This is something everyone needs. People will see we are doing alright and people are thinking of us.”

Dunlop said the Light Up High River project is exactly what the residents need to show there is normality and people are committed to the community.

“We need the spirit and help,” said Dunlop. “We will be able to enjoy what the town is now. It is not what it was, not yet, but it will be. For now we can celebrate what the town is now.”

The idea for the Light Up High River initiative was born at an event hosted by Alta Vita restaurant where Dunlop and his friend Don Johnston enjoyed the tent party.

However, when Johnston looked downtown he saw dark desolation.

“When we looked downtown it was dark and depressing,” said Johnston. “I just didn’t think High River should go through Christmas with downtown dark.”

With the 27th annual Santa Claus Parade just days away Johnston needed to work quickly and immediately went about organizing what he termed Light Up High River.

“We put a call out to volunteers to go out and dress up downtown,” said Johnston. “The Town of High River has been in recovery mode since June and their priority is getting home and business operational. Decking the downtown area with Christmas lights is our way of giving them something to smile about.

“The parade is an important event not only for High River but for surrounding communities. To support the town, we want to make sure the parade route is lit up in full Christmas style,” he added.

To get the program going Johnston enlisted Calgary entrepreneur and philanthropist Brett Wilson who agreed to come on board as a major sponsor in order to flood High River in lights.

“I was in High River the weekend of the flood and I was shocked at the devastation,” said Wilson.

“The town has come a long way, but still has a long way to go. Dressing the place up for Christmas is a great idea and I hope it gives the town a boost as they keep up their rebuilding efforts.”

Johnston continued to lock down sponsors including ATB Financial who will be accepting cash donations and Rona stores in Calgary and Black Diamond will be accepting donations of Christmas lights.

Rob McKay, owner/operator of the Black Diamond Rona store, said he did not hesitate to get on board the Light Up High River initiative.

“High River took a hit and we need to do all we can to make Christmas a joyous occasion,” said McKay. “We need to show some love for the community and show we appreciate everything they are doing to move forward.”

Lastly, Johnston and his team received the green light from the Town of High River meaning downtown will be light bright for the holidays.

“It has all come together pretty fast,” said Johnston. “We want the whole downtown lit up.”

Donations are being collected but volunteers are still needed to help decorate downtown High River. Anyone interested in helping is asked to meet at Rotary Park in High River at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The goal is to decorate the buildings on the four blocks of downtown as well as the Town administration building, the Memorial Centre and Rotary Park.

For Dunlop, this initiative will bring some light to what have been dark circumstances.

“There is a lot left to be done,” he said. “Everybody wants to know how they can help and what we can do now. The community has to be gracious enough to accept some help.”

Light Up High River will help the community celebrate a merry Christmas.


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