May 25th, 2024

Coaldale Christmas Night of Lights parade cancelled

By Erika Mathieu SOUTHERN ALBERTA NEWSPAPERS on November 4, 2021.

Crowds line main street to take in the displays of lighted floats as they pass by during a past season's Country Christmas Night of Lights in Coaldale. Herald file photo by Ian Martens


Coaldale won’t see any bright lights this month.
Coaldale town council carried a motion on Oct. 25 to cancel the upcoming Country Christmas Night of Lights parade and accompanying events. The annual event was initially scheduled for Friday, Nov. 19.
However, growing concerns from the local health inspector prompted Cindy Hoffman and Russ Tanner to realistically evaluate whether AHS guidelines and social distancing of two metres between families would be enforceable, or even feasible at all.
“The event can typically draw up to 2000 people along the route from Coaldale health centre to John Davidson school,” explained Hoffman, manager of community services in Coaldale.
Of the 2,000 or so attendees, many onlookers have congregated in dense groups within the space of just a few blocks.
“With a large percentage of people gathering between 17th Street and 19th Street, this particular area can see up to 12 people deep on the sidewalk with many people flooding into the street public. holding the parade could pose a potential risk for the transmission of the virus,” said Hoffman.
While AHS guidelines currently do not stipulate any capacity restrictions on outdoor gatherings, social distancing remains a requirement for outdoor events to be compliant with AHS requirements.
Events such as the night of lights pose additional concerns for participants since children under 12 years are currently not eligible for vaccination.
“The difference between the parade and an outdoor event like a concert for a football game is point of entry, there’s just no control of who comes and goes and so (in this case) it would be incredibly difficult,” added Russ Tanner, director of recreation and community services.
While there are viable alternatives, Hoffman cited budgetary concerns as well as time constraints as factors for recommending the cancellation of the 2021 event.
She said, “we are less than four weeks to the event,” a point reiterated by Mayor Jack Van Rijn, “it’s a lot of work for community services to put this together in four weeks and with new restrictions personally, I think this is going to be a problem trying to maintain distances between families.” Coun. Jeff Beekman suggested an alternative approach such as a “two-tier parade. It generally takes 15 to 20 minutes to run the parade through. Would it be an option to run the parade through twice?” However, Hoffman pointed to the unpredictable nature of that solution.
“You just don’t know who is going to come, and at what time.”
Deputy Mayor Jacen Abrey suggested a drive-by parade where “lights and vehicles are all parked and we as residents drive by?” “We did explore this last year and one of the concerns the then-staff sergeant had was this is all happening in the dark we turn off all the streetlights so there was this huge safety concern at that point kids darting between moving vehicles,” added Hoffman.
Residents can expect the winter walk in the park event to run from Nov. 20 to Dec. 29 on Wednesdays and Saturdays, as the Town will be able to better manage admittance and enforce AHS’s distancing requirements.

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