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Winter festival draws thousands

Light Up Okotoks draws tens of thousands of people with horse-drawn wagon rides, entertainment, ice sculptures, roaming carolers, late-night shopping, craft shows, the arrival of Santa Claus, the lighting of the town Christmas tree and fireworks.

“The community spirit just comes alive with this event,” said community events specialist Mark Doherty, adding more than 20,000 people attended last year.

This year’s event is on Nov. 17 between 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Elizabeth, McRae and North Railway Streets will be closed to traffic up to Lineham Avenue from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

There will be many new and old activities. Triangle Park will feature free s’mores, cookie decorating and a Light Up the Night Float Zone boasting parked flats decorated in Christmas themes.

Food will be in abundance throughout the evening with rolling maple sugar, food trucks and fudge and cotton candy for sale.
“Every year we try and do things just a little bit different and introduce some new programs and activities into the event just to keep it fresh,” said Doherty. “This is truly a community event.”

Doherty said more businesses take part in Light Up each year, often opening their doors to an evening of discounts while offering warmth by fire pits and sweets to sample, Doherty said.

“They take it upon themselves to set something up, whether it’s hot chocolate or discounts for the store,” he said.

“Typically everyone is there for the event and sales that night may be minimal, but what I’m hearing is people come back because of that exposure to the store and the products they sell.”

There will be performances at the downtown plaza throughout the evening, as well as a welcome from Mayor Bill Robertson and dignitaries at 6:45 p.m., an appearance by Santa Claus at 6:50 p.m. and the lighting of the Christmas tree at 7 p.m.

Those looking to support local charities throughout the evening can donate to the Okotoks Food Bank’s 18 Wheels of Christmas, Okotoks Fire Department charity barbecue, Western Wheel Cares 50/50 for local charities and the Tree of Warmth, which is accepting new winter accessories for charities at the Okotoks Art Gallery.

The event ends with fireworks at Lineham Park at 9 p.m.

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