Visions of sugar plums may be dancing in children’s heads after the December Christmas Madness event in Lake Cowichan this coming weekend.
The evening’s festivities on Dec. 7 will kick-off the event when the switch is pulled to light-up the town, starting with the Christmas tree in front of the Visitor Information Centre (VIC), now transformed into a Gingerbread House for the holiday season.
In fact, a special, cartoon-type light switch is being designed and made for the light-up ceremony this year by Ron McKenzie, Lake Cowichan Chamber of Commerce’s chair of programs and events and its vice-president.
McKenzie insists he has had very little to do with organizing the event otherwise, but says he is very proud to be part of it and looks forward to attending.
As has become the custom, Santa will arrive on the scene in the town’s fire truck from his tour around the lake, but even before that, children can come down to the Visitor Information Centre from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to spend time with Santa’s wife, Mrs. Claus, and entertainer Beverly McKeen.
McKeen will be singing songs and telling stories that capture the spirit of Christmas. Refreshments will be provided.
In recent years, Lake Cowichan stores have been open for the December Christmas Madness event, however, this year VIC coordinator Katherine Worsley says businesses have decided not to stay open late.
“We noticed that there were not a lot of people out shopping on the Friday night when we do the light-up,” Worsley remarked. “So this year, the business members are going to be open their regular hours, and then they’re going to come and enjoy the festivities as well.”
The Fire Truck Relay has become one of the most popular events for the kids. It began in 2007 as a means of letting children in all the communities around the lake know about pictures with Santa at the Country Grocer on the Saturday morning, and has turned into the main event for the more-than-100 children who gathered last year inside the Gingerbread House (VIC) after his tour of the lake.
At 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 7, Santa starts his ride around the lake — but Worsley says they’re keeping it a secret as to where he will be starting the ride from. With the assistance of the local fire trucks, he will be transferred at the boundary lines of each community to the next fire department’s fire truck. All the fire departments participate.
“What happened was, the kids kept stopping him as he went around the lake — and because Santa is very inquisitive of our young children — he spent time with them.”
As a result, every year the number of kids that come out to wait for him after the Fire Truck Relay has been growing, attests Worsley.
“The first year there was 6-10 kids there, the next year there was over 25, then the next year there was 75, and last year, over 110.”
The moment of anticipation for those who are waiting in the Gingerbread House for the fire truck to pull up with and see Santa climb out is worth its weight in gold, though, she says.
“The big thing is to come and meet Santa here at Saywell Park at 7:30 p.m. for the big light up of the Christmas Tree in front of our Gingerbread House,” said Worsley. “The mayor, council and CVRD Area F and Area I directors will all be present to share in the moment.”
After that, Santa will be available to listen to the wishes of the children. Refreshments will be available for the children in the evening as well.
Shopping passports, available from participating businesses or at the VIC, will be in effect again this year. It’s a week-long shopping opportunity at local businesses that will end in a draw on Dec. 16 for six different $50 gift certificates.
When you purchase an item from a business that is listed on the passport, you get a stamp in your passport. When you have collected five stamps, you can take that passport and drop it into the entry box that is in the VIC for the draw.
If the children manage to sleep after Friday evening’s excitement, they may also see Santa and have their picture taken with him on Saturday from 11-3 p.m. at the Country Grocer store in town.
“The Lady of the Lake are taking the pictures,” Worsley said. “It’s a fundraiser for them and all proceeds go to help the Lady of the Lake’s programs.”
Pictures are not mandatory, but every child is welcome to come and see Santa.
The LCSS 2013 Grads will be selling hot dogs and hot chocolate and the Rivernote Carollers will be singing from 11 a.m. to 12 noon.
December Christmas Madness is the kick-off to a host of other Christmas-related events that will run throughout the month of December, such as the the Kaatza Lakeside Players Christmas play Dec. 4-8, Christmas Karaoke, Dec. 14 at Studio 261 Arts Space and the Winter Carnival on Ice, Dec. 23.