It was a busy day Dec. 23, as shoppers and fun seekers thronged to Stettler’s Main Street for the annual “Night Before the Night Before Christmas” extravaganza.
Local businesses pulled out all the stops, decorating their stores and having evening hours, while hay rides, a petting zoo, warming fires, free food and refreshments and other fun activities drew crowds all afternoon and evening long.
From noon until 4 p.m., Santa ensconced himself at Wells Furniture, letting children have a last-minute meeting and chance to tell them their special wishes before he and his elves finished their Christmas-time toy building spree in the North Pole. After visiting with Santa and receiving a bag of candy, children could enjoy a hot dog, hot cocoa, and warm up by the fire, or pet one of the three sheep penned beside the store.
“We never keep track of how many people come,” Wells Furniture owner Bernie Jackson said. “It’s just a give-back to the community event. It was amazing — everyone on Main Street kicked in. We had people come from all over.”
She said she didn’t think that the economy affected how many people attended the events during the Night Before the Night Before, since while stores remained open late in hopes of catching last-minute shoppers, that wasn’t the goal behind the event.
Over at Alberta Prairie Railways, the four free train excursions drew in the largest-ever number of guests, spokesperson Bob Willis said.
“A total of more than 2,000 children and adults board the train,” he said. “Adults were invited to make a $5 or foodstuff donation to the Stettler Foodbank, but no one was turned away if they chose not to contribute.”
The event ended up raising $4,271 for the Stettler and District Food Bank, which this year has seen an increase in the number of families needing assistance.