Light Up keeping spirits bright

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Downtown Okotoks will be all aglow Friday night as thousands of people stroll the streets in one of the Town’s most anticipated events of the year.

Wagon rides, craft sales, shopping, Santa Claus, fireworks and plenty of hot chocolate are among the highlights of Light Up Okotoks on Nov. 17 starting at 5:30 p.m.

“This is one of the biggest events of our community,” said Mark Doherty, community events specialist. “It’s the event that kicks off Christmas. Christmas is always a very magical and special time and seeing downtown transform into this magical Christmas community is phenomenal.”

Local politicians, organizations and merchants hop on board each year to be part of the tradition, offering a variety of attractants including hot chocolate, cookies, photo opportunities, s’mores, crafts and carolling.

“Last year’s attendance exceeded 20,000 people,” said Doherty. “It’s one of the favourite community events and south Calgary loves coming here for this event. It’s got that small town feel.”

Elizabeth, McRae and North Railway streets will be closed from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. to give residents and visitors alike easy access to downtown. More than 20 firepits will be set up for people to warm up along the way.

There will be plenty of activities for the whole family, from pictures with Santa at the Okotoks Art Gallery, to pet llamas in the parking lot or rides on one of six horse-drawn wagons for a tour through downtown.

At the Olde Towne Plaza, people can enjoy musical entertainment, a visit from Santa at 6:50 p.m. and the ever-popular lighting of the Christmas tree at 7 p.m.

“The lighting of the tree is one of the big drawing cards,” said Doherty. “Last year from the stage I couldn’t see the end of the crowd. There had to be 10,000 people right there for that.”

Anyone looking for a little help getting into the Christmas spirit can listen to Christmas carolling at the Rotary Performing Arts Centre.

“Our musical groups and choirs break up into smaller groups and roam the streets and go into the store carolling,” he said. “That adds that magical Christmas feel to it.”

Always a draw for youngsters is the Sugar Shack’s maple toffee booth where people can roll maple in snow onto a stick for $1. There will also be glow in the dark sticks by the plaza stage, a s’mores station on North Railway Street, miniature ponies at the McBride Career Group and a Christmas craft sale at the Elks Hall.

Light Up Okotoks is also an opportunity for fundraising. The 18 Wheels of Christmas trailer returns to collect food and cash donations for the Okotoks Food Bank, a photo booth with help raise money for the Foothills Composite High School graduating class and a charity barbecue will be hosted by the Okotoks Fire Department.

New to Light Up this year is Candy Cane Alley, featuring cookies, fire pits, lights and vehicles at the Landmark site.

Food will be in abundance with kettle corn, el churro treats, fudge, pizza, s’mores and plenty of hot chocolate and cookies throughout downtown.

The night will end with a fireworks display at 9 p.m.

“It’s going to be a spectacular show again this year,” Doherty said.

For more details about Light Up Okotoks go to okotoks.ca

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