When you purchase a home on 148 Street in Edmonton the expectations are high. A multi-generational effort has brought Candy Cane Lane to life since the 1960s.
It all started with a small handful of volunteers, and now community involvement has never been higher in west Edmonton’s Crestwood neighbourhood.
Six years ago, after witnessing an elderly neighbour fall while setting up his lights, Duane Hunter knew it was time to step up.
“We go running over and there’s my poor old neighbour under the ladder and he says, ‘Duane please don’t tell my wife,'” Hunter recalled.
It was his generation’s turn to take on the task of ensuring those who needed a helping hand making the street shine would get it.
This year, at least 75 people ensure bonfires are lit, sleigh rides are scheduled and families leave with smiles on their faces.
“We find more and more every year that we have more volunteers and more people want to take on bigger active roles, so it’s exciting,” Hunter said.
“It is a real sense of community, it feels incredible.”
And it’s not a competition about whose yard is the best. Everyone contributes in the best way they can.
Candy Cane Lane became a success through word of mouth – and today social media plays a big role.
“I do more on the online than I do ‘on-live'” (in real life), laughed Kees Denhartigh, Candy Cane Lane’s social media coordinator.
At this time of year, their inboxes are flooded with questions.
“‘When does it open?’ ‘When do the lights turn on?’ ‘Can I bring my dog?’ ‘How much are the sleigh rides?’ Tonnes of stuff,” said Denhartigh, before boasting about their 99 per cent response rate on Facebook.
Even the students at Crestwood Junior High proudly identify themselves as Candy Cane Lane volunteers.
“They’re using it for their volunteer hours at school, and we sign off on it,” Hunter said.
The community effort has come full circle.
“The best part of this is we have someone to take our jobs next!”
Bringing it all to life takes time, effort and a lot of cash. When asked what their yearly decoration budget is, residents laughed and changed the subject.
And for three weeks a year, their normally quiet street turns into a zoo.
“Everybody is so joyous and so grateful for what we do.”
All the residents want in return is a donation to Edmonton’s Food Bank. Branting said the mid-December cold snap resulted in fewer donations than normal. She hopes to see an increase in the coming days.
“We don’t ask for much, we just ask for a smile on your face and a couple bags of groceries and that definitely goes a long way.”