The Darlings Island covered bridge has always been a focal point of Taya Wallace's life.
She and her husband, Brent, got married on that bridge, the first couple in New Brunswick to do so. She grew up in its shadow, visiting family on Darlings Island. Eventually she bought her grandmother's home, which overlooks the bridge, and she and her husband raised their two boys there.
But this year, the 106-year-old bridge has been elevated to a whole new level of special for Wallace, and for the communities around it.
Thanks to dozens of volunteers, the bridge on Darlings Island Road has been set aglow with thousands of lights, a Christmas tree, wreaths, pine-bough swags, making spirits bright for locals and visitors alike – and if ever there were a year that needed brightening, 2020 is it.
But the idea actually came about before the pandemic.
"I started thinking about it last year when the St. Martins bridge was lit up," Wallace said. "It was too late to get it rolling then, but I knew when this year started unfolding the way it did there was no way I wasn't going to light it up this year."
She floated the idea around Darlings Island and nearby Nauwigewauk community Facebook groups. They loved the idea, so Wallace approached the Department of Transportation and got the necessary approval.
"From there," Wallace said, "it was as easy as asking our two Facebook groups for donations of lights and extension cords and physical help. And the response was overwhelming."
The group of volunteers met at the bridge on a Sunday afternoon, on Nov. 29. The gathering size had to be limited because of orange phase rules, but those 22 pairs of hands quite literally made light work.
"We started at 12:30, and by about 3:30 we were done," Wallace said. "The community really came together, and the results are just beautiful."
They'd have loved to have had a party to celebrate, she said, but for now they're contenting themselves with enjoying the display, and watching others enjoy it, too.
Wallace, who can see the bridge from her home, said it's a treat to see cars approach and slow down to take in the sight. She's also seeing lots of photos posted to Facebook, with posters tagging the bridge and saying they were there.
The entire set of bridge lights is hooked up via extension cords to Wallace's house, which has its own display of 2,000 Christmas lights.
"I'm a bit of a Clark Griswold," Wallace confided with a laugh. "I have no idea what the power bill will be, but whatever it is, it will be small price to pay for beautiful lights and lifted spirits. I think everyone needed that this year."