Christmas and community spirit was in the air downtown Stettler for the annual Night Before the Night Before on Dec. 23 as Christmas bargains and fun activities attracted hundreds of people in chilly but bearable weather.
“Lots of people were downtown during the day and night and the weather was better that it was last year,” said Andrea Hatch, president of Stettler Downtown Business Association, which hosts the annual event.
“Overall, businesses were busier and had more last-minute Christmas shoppers than last year.”
Temperatures hovered around – 25 Celsius, more bearable than last year’s event when the mercury dipped to well below – 35 with the wind chill.
Even many people from outside the Stettler region were drawn to the downtown event, coming from as far away as Red Deer and Lacombe as they got their train tickets stamped for the major draw.
“They were absolutely amazed at the stores and businesses that we have downtown Stettler,” said Hatch.
“Stores we have downtown, they expect only in larger communities.”
Live reindeer, hay rides around downtown, and a special visit from Santa Claus thrilled children and those young at heart.
Refreshments, hot dogs, hot chocolate, hot apple cider and coffee were served at many businesses.
Children of all ages enjoyed two free showings of the popular movie The Polar Express at Jewel Theatre.
Music was ringing in the air in the evening with Christmas music sung by Gracenotes Choir inside a clothing store while a group of carolers from Freedom Christian Fellowship Stettler Community Church and Stettler Alliance Church bellowed a several songs of the season on the street and inside businesses to delight shoppers and business operators.
“We had carolers just show up and that spontaneity is great,” said Hatch.
“It’s more of a community event than just a downtown business promotion.”
Free train rides on Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions were a big hit as over 1,100 pcople enjoyed complimentary refreshments, and special visits by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and characters from Puss in Boots.
All four trips were packed for a fee of $5 for adults or a donation to the food bank with $1,720 and three truck loads of food collected.
Passengers received a special ticket and were encouraged to get it stamped at three downtown businesses for a chance to win $500 in Stettler Dollars, two adult open-date train tickets or several other prizes provided by Stettler downtown businesses.
Organizers plan to draw the winning tickets Jan. 4.