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Popular Edmonton holiday festivals coming back after being cancelled by COVID-19 last year

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The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled a host of winter and holiday festivals in Edmonton last year, but this year, many are coming back. As Nicole Stillger explains, it's a chance to come together after being apart for so long – Nov 19, 2021

A number of popular holiday festivals in Edmonton are returning after COVID-19 forced their cancellation last year.

All is Bright is the marquee event for the 124 Street Businesses Association. It’s also seen as the kickoff to the winter and holiday festival season.

“We are one of the first festivals that comes out in the winter,” said Luyam Kiflemariam, executive director of the 124 Street Business Association.

“It’s really welcoming back the winter — and not only winter — but coming back after taking a year off.”

Read more: Deep Freeze reinvented during COVID-19 pandemic to offer safe winter fun

The 124 Street area will come alive with light shows, street performers and live music on Saturday from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.

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“I know the small businesses on 124 Street are excited to have people back walking around.”

Read more: ‘Edmonton loves to Fringe’: Festival releases 2021 numbers

Many of the businesses in the area will also stay open later.

Glow returns

At the Edmonton Expo Centre, another popular event is getting ready to welcome people back.

Glow is Edmonton’s biggest indoor holiday festival. It was cancelled last year because of COVID-19.

“It feels great,” said Shannon Van Norman, president of Shadow Vista Productions, which puts on Glow Edmonton.

“Last year, we set up the show. It stayed set up until March, then we tore it down.

“Really excited to be able to bring Glow back… We have a lot of people that come every year. They’ve made it into a Christmas tradition.”

Read more: Edmontonians flock to see Christmas lights during a very dark year

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Glow will run from Nov. 24 until Jan. 2.

Churchill Square Christmas tree

On Saturday, the giant Christmas tree at Churchill Square will come alive with lights.

Last year, the ceremony was kept small. This year, it will be more of a production with live entertainment and food trucks.

Celebrations at Churchill Square will continue every other Saturday.

The tree will stay up until Jan 2.

WinterCity Edmonton 

Isla Tanaka has a unique job. She’s the WinterCity planner with the City of Edmonton.

From the rinks to the cross-country ski trails, Tanaka said last year, the parks were busy.

There were, however, fewer festivals and events.

“The festivals worked really hard to still bring some programming to people, and they did an excellent job, but we couldn’t have those really big events,” Tanaka said.

Read more: Beloved Edmonton events are adapting to COVID-19 rules this holiday season

With Edmonton as a winter city, she said it’s important to have these events back in our lives.

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“I think people want to get out, and I think we’ll see people. We may not see as many as we have in the past,” Tanaka said.

She acknowledged not everyone is a fan of winter but said she’s seen the tone change over the last several years with the work she’s been doing.

“People are starting to embrace it and even people who aren’t embracing winter are accepting that, yes, we are a winter city and we have some great winter days,” Tanaka said.

“They’ll get out into the parks, they’ll get out to the patios, they’ll get out to events — especially with the events happening again I think we’ll see more people outside.”

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