Stettler’s Festival of Lights continues tradition despite pandemic alterations

Roberts: ‘Every year, whether we run normally or we don’t, I’m overwhelmed by the support.’

A variety of items were donated for the 2021 Stettler Festival of Lights, this year raising funds for the revitalization of the hospital atrium. (Photo submitted)

Stettler’s Festival of Lights was back for 2021, albeit with some pandemic related changes.

Instead of the usual week-long event featuring a pancake breakfast, senior’s teas, craft painting, and a variety of other events culminating in a gala at the Stettler Community Hall which brought friends and families together, the 2021 event was instead held mainly online.

“This year, we decided we we were just going to go online,” said committee chair Amy Roberts.

“With the way things are right now, with the vaccine passports, its volunteers who run this and we wanted to avoid the whole issue.”

The online Festival of Lights ran through the last week of November, as an online auction, although the event did feature some real-world activities.

Those interested in catching a Christmas flick were able to head down to the Jewel Theatre which on Nov. 21 hosted the 2004 movie Christmas with the Kranks, starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, with all admission money being donated back to the festival.

For those feeling crafty, the Festival of Lights committee made available a take-home craft kit from Nov. 22 to 25.

This year, the craft was was three wooden Christmas gnomes.

Outdoors, the Stettler Festival of Lights committee offered, thanks to Jim Long and his team of horses, ‘sleigh rides and burgers’ on Nov. 24 and 25.

Running between 3 and 8 p.m., the sleigh rides departed the Stettler Sports Park and ran for about 25 minutes touring the Christmas lights of a nearby part of Stettler.

The cost for the ride was $5, which people had to pre-book, and all riders were given a coupon for a free Teen Burger at A&W Stettler.

Other parts of the fundraising, such as the Tribute Tree in the hospital atrium and the quilt ticket sales, will be continuing until Dec. 24.

Up to this point, the Festival of Lights has raised around $90,000 in the 2021 campaign which is being directed toward the revitalization of the Stettler Hospital and Care Centre atrium.

“Nothing has been upgraded in there since they built the hospital,” said Roberts.

“It’s definitely not a priority for (Alberta Health Services). It needs a little love.”

According to Stan Eicchorn of the Stettler History Book Committee, the Stettler Hospital and Care Centre first opened its doors in September 1971.

The Festival of Lights, according to Roberts, has been running for over 20 years in Stettler and started as an initiative to raise money for the hospital.

Starting small, the initiative at first consisted of volunteers decorating a “few trees” in the hospital atrium, which were then auctioned off.

Over time, the scope of the event has grown with it eventually moving to the community hall and turning into the event people recognize today.

“Every year, whether we run normally or we don’t, I’m overwhelmed by the support,” said Roberts.

“We look forward to seeing everybody at the hall next year and having our events again.”

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A variety of items were donated for the 2021 Stettler Festival of Lights online auction raising money for the hospital. Around $90,000 was raised. (Photo submitted)

The support was huge for the 2021 edition of the Stettler Festival of Lights, with the community digging deep and raising around $90,000 for the hospital. (Photo submitted)