LEDUC COUNTY – Strolling through the sprawling Leduc Country Lights display has become a holiday tradition for countless families – but if guests continue to break the rules, it could disappear.
The Ruel family farm south of Edmonton has had a large display that’s entertained the public for years, but four years ago they expanded the walking trail system many have come to know and love.
This season, for the first time ever, the Ruels had to kick a family off their property after they were caught swinging on trees and damaging lights.
The adults refused to listen to volunteers and the Ruels asked them to leave.
“There’s only so much people can take before we get pushed past our limits,” said son Neil Ruel.
He said disrespectful guests have caused thousands of dollars in damage, forcing the family to replace 100 strings of lights, which snap easily in the cold.
“Lately we’ve been seeing a lot of people walking off the path, over our rope lights, making snow angels – which is no big deal but unfortunately they’re knocking out lights,” he said.
Andrew Bondy, 13, said he was amazed by the lights earlier this winter and was upset to hear people were misbehaving.
“People spend this much time and effort to go to work, get the money and put this on for thousands of people to go there and look. Then people are going there and just destroying them, I think that’s just terrible,” he said.
Each year, a team of 15 to 20 volunteers starts setting up the enormous light display in October and works diligently straight through the holidays until tearing it down in January. But there are not enough resources to track every guest and make sure they are behaving. Ruel hopes the community can help.
“If you see somebody climbing and hanging off a rope or a light, ask them ‘hey, don’t touch that please’ – it would go a long way,” he said.
Leduc Country Lights is free but collects donations for the local food bank. This year, volunteers raised $30,000 and 19,000 kilograms of food.
The Leduc Food Bank said that will help carry them through at least a couple of months at a time when more and more people are in need of their services.
“Demand on our food bank went up 50 per cent in November and December and I expect it to climb to 60 per cent in January,” said executive director Gert Reynar.
She added the closure would undoubtedly affect the food bank’s ability to feed the hungry.
“It would be sad to see it go. I know how much work the volunteers put into it. It always takes one bad apple to ruin it for everyone else,” Reynar said.
WATCH ABOVE: People take to Facebook to react to potential closure of Leduc Country Lights
After the Ruels posted on Facebook about the problems they’ve encountered, a flood of encouragement came pouring in.
Sunday is the last night people can take in the display before it shuts down for another season.
The family said they will give it one more year in hopes people will be more respectful of their decorations, but explain if guests continue to cross the lines, they’ll be forced to turn out the lights.Follow @SarahNKraus
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