SHERBROOKE – Following its no-show last year, Sherbrooke Old-Fashioned Christmas is back with expanded offerings, and just in time for its 25th birthday, say organizers of the holiday favourite, which takes place this week (Nov 26-28).
“The event will feature a 50-foot Christmas tree, fireworks, Santa, a visit to ‘Whoville’, breakfasts, free Christmas skates, a youth dance, craft sales, ecumenical service, Victorian and children’s tea, Ultimate Santa Race and the Parade of Lights,” says Lynn Hayne, events manager for Historic Sherbrooke Village.
The influence of COVID-19, which derailed the event last year, isn’t entirely gone.
“Not happening this year will be the timed tree lighting, as it will cause too large of a concentration of people in one area,” she says.
The same goes for the traditional festival dinners.
But, she notes, “The important thing is we are back,” adding: “We’ll spread activities out around the site to allow for comfortable distancing of groups.”
Another happy change this year is a bigger role for the Whale Sanctuary Project (WSP), which first became involved in 2019. With its new Visitor and Operations Centre in the downtown, opened a few weeks ago, there is now an official home suitable for special occasions.
“We’ll have a Beluga-themed winter carnival, with outdoor games and prizes for the entire family,” Amy Simon, WSP’s communications coordinator in Sherbrooke, says.
Begun in 1995, as a way to stretch the tourism season at the living museum, Sherbrooke Old-Fashioned Christmas was, and remains, a volunteer-driven event. And, while tourists have not yet returned in pre-pandemic numbers, the volunteers for the festival are as eager as ever.
“I love spending time with members of our community while putting this together,” says Thomas Maher, one of the event’s volunteers who joined the Village’s staff as a student employee in 2008 and is now a member of its wardrobe department.
Adds Dave Smith, who just completed a stint as King Lion for St. Mary’s District Lion’s Club and is pitching in at the festival: “The camaraderie and meeting new people have only added to the enjoyment of helping to put this on.”
Says Hayne: “There is no mandatory number of hours and no job too small. We can always use additional help – from hanging lights to serving tea. Members of the presenting committee and volunteers have changed over the years but the commitment to the event has remained steadfast.”
The festival will observe COVID-19 protocols, including checking photo IDs and proof of vaccination. That said, Hayne insists, “There is something for everyone this holiday season, so visit us to get into the holiday spirit at Sherbrooke Village.”
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal