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Blackfalds prepares for Light Up

 Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe

Light Up Blackfalds patrons walk past one of several light displays at Tayles Park during last year's Light Up Blackfalds event. This year, the event will be on Nov. 27 starting at 6:30 p.m. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)

Light Up Blackfalds patrons walk past one of several light displays at Tayles Park during last year's Light Up Blackfalds event. This year, the event will be on Nov. 27 starting at 6:30 p.m. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)

Light Up Blackfalds is just one night of the year, but for Shaun Knowles and Karen Saunders, it begins long before they flip the switch to turn the lights on.

Preparation for the 10th annual Light Up Blackfalds on Wednesday, Nov. 29 - and one of the more impressive light displays in Central Alberta - commenced in September, while light set up began the first week of October.

“We start with the big trees right away while it’s nice out. We can wrap the trees with warm cords, get up on the lift,” said Knowles, who’s been setting up the lights display for the last eight years alongside Saunders.

“We try to change it up every year - change colours or add things.”

When they first started setting up the Christmas display, it was just a couple of boxes with small displays on top. Since then, it’s grown to expand the majority of Tayles Spray Park outside the Civic Cultural Centre.

Once everything is lit this year, the park will have more than 54,000 bulbs and 771 strands of lights - roughly 3,800 feet (1.15 kilometres) of cord.

In 2016, their newest feature was a large-scale nativity scene. This year, the new addition will be something Knowles and Saunders built and programmed themselves.

Towering over the park will be what they’re calling a “pixel tree,” which they were just wrapping up setup on Tuesday afternoon. It alone has 1,600 lights - all of which are able to be programmed individually to music.

Knowles is behind the programming of the light show, which features 18 songs.

He says a lot of hours has gone into setting up the light show - some songs have taken him up to eight hours to program.

Combined with regular duties as parks staff, both of them have put a lot of time and hours into setting up the park, as well as dealing with cold fingers as they put everything into place.

Still, in the end, it’s worth it when the lights finally turn on.

“It’s one of my favourite days,” said Saunders. “ You can see the magic in the kids eyes...it’s heartwarming.”

Prior to the big reveal of this year’s lights display, Dancer’s Edge will perform a routine and the Iron Ridge Junior Campus Choir will sing a few Christmas Carols starting at 6:30 p.m.

Speeches from sponsors and the Recreation, Culture & Parks Board will follow, while the countdown itself will begin at 7 p.m. sharp.

Tim Hortons will be on site, serving up coffee and hot chocolate with a donation to the Christmas Bureau for those who need something to keep themselves warm.

For those who miss Light Up Blackfalds, the musical light show runs from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Lights themselves will turn on at 5 p.m. and stay on until dawn until early January.

Light Up Blackfalds, like Lacombe’s Light Up the Night festival, is sponsored by Stantec.

-abarrett@postmedia.com 



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