More entries needed to turn up North Dundas Display of Lights

École élémentaire catholique Sainte-Thérèse-d’Avila students march with their float in the 2017 North Dundas Parade of Lights. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — So far, Sandy Burns and members of her North Dundas Display of Lights organizing committee have rounded up 20 stationary floats for the Dec. 4-5 event… but they hope for many more, a number closer to the 50-60 entries normally included in the traditional Christmas parade.

COVID-19 killed the parade, so the display — to be held on a large open lot at Rideau Auctions on Highway 31 where cars will roll past the floats — is being offered instead. Chair for about five years of the parade committee, Burns said there’s still time to get the float numbers up, adding that traditionally late registrations are common.

She doesn’t see current low entries as pushback against the concept of a stationary parade. In fact, some participants are welcoming the setup as a chance to do more with their presentations for a somewhat more captive audience. While visitors won’t be able to stop at individual sites on the two nights of the inaugural event, they will be advised to drive very slowly.

Early in the COVID cycle, the display idea came to Burns who had visited the fundraising Magic of Lights show in Nepean, more than 300 stations over two kilometres with an entrance fee per vehicle. The rest of the organizing committee agreed there was potential if COVID lingered, and planning started in August. There’s no fee at the Winchester event for either entries or visitors.

Below: With a flaming Grinch atop its float, Top Notch Tree Maintenance & Removal earned the People’s Choice Award in the 2019 North Dundas Parade of Lights.
Below, the full 2019 Parade.

Most of the organizing has been about satisfying the Eastern Ontario Health Unit that all precautions will be met, including masking, sanitizing, distancing, and limited contact between visitors, floats, and organizers. That will be the case, Burns said, with few points of contact and no opportunity to exit vehicles. She thanked the EOHU for being nothing but cooperative in trying to facilitate the display.

The traditional tossing of candy from passing floats will be replaced by COVID-cautious distribution of loot bags to kids as vehicles enter the grounds. At least two fundraisers will be operating with limited contact on the grounds: Fries for Charity with purchases delivered to vehicles by volunteers, and the North Dundas Christmas Fund will be collecting donations to help families in need.

Organizers are selling ND Parade of Lights $10 toques at several locations, including at a scaled back Vendor Show to be held at the community centre on the Saturday. As usual, voting will be held for best floats including a people’s choice award and — new this year — “Thanking Front Line Workers” category.

While there will be bands and other musical entries, they’ll perform on a stage near the entrance to the display. A temporary FM channel will be set up to which visitors will be able to tune in and listen to in their cars.

COVID has wreaked havoc among Eastern Ontario Christmas parades and other seasonal events, with North Dundas’ alternative display one of few remaining. Scheduled for Nov. 20, one of the granddaddy’s of them all, Prescott Fire Department’s Light Up The Night parade — which hadn’t missed in 67 years and drew 100 floats and 10,000 visitors — also knuckled under to COVID.

Prescott Mayor Brett Todd has announced that, with health and safety paramount, alternative ways will be found to help the community celebrate Christmas.


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