The first visible sign of Cochrane Light Up being around the corner emerged in Cochrane’s Historic Downtown yesterday.

The giant 32 ft. Christmas tree is now up on the roof of Rexall Drugs, 305 1st St. W., and ready to be lit at the upcoming giant community gathering, Sat. Nov. 17.

The newly-formed Cochrane Rainbow Society and friends erected the tree with the guidance of Light Up chair Stephenie Shelstad. They have pledged to take over the responsibility annually.

Rob Halfyard, of the new LGBTQ society largely aimed at connecting people 40-plus, says it’s all about being part of the Cochrane community.

“I’m stoked,” says Halfyard. “It’s a really nice partnership. We’re doing something productive and we’re helping the community that we’re part of.”Raelle Rivoire, of the Light Up committee, working on installing the tree.

Raising the tree can be a daunting task and this year it went smoother than ever, says Shelstad. The tree was introduced five years ago to Cochrane's 34-year old Light Up tradition.

More Stepping Forward to Help

Shelstad says more and more community groups have been stepping forward to help with the Light Up celebration that serves as an unofficial kickoff of the Christmas season in Cochrane.

Besides the contribution of the Cochrane Rainbow Society, there’s already a workforce of groups in place to man the barricades, run water and supplies to the firepits and tend to the eco-needs.

“That has really taken a load off the number of volunteers we need. We still need volunteers but it cuts it in half.”

More volunteers for the many other tasks involved in orchestrating the event are currently being sought, she says. Those wanting to help can sign up on their website: www.cochranelightup.com. There you’ll find a signup sheet under the “volunteer” tab.

Three-Packed Hours of Light Up 

Cochrane Light Up runs for three packed hours from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. It's one of the highlights of the Christmas season and many take advantage of it to catch up with family and friends.

Santa will arrive on a fire truck and after a brief opening ceremony Shelstad and a representative of Trico Homes, this year’s sponsor of the tree, will pull the switch to light two trees, one real, the other artificial.

This year, they’ll be 18 firepots serving hot dogs and assorted other treats. Tim Hortons will have a mobile unit downtown serving coffee and they'll be hot chocolate at the firepits.

Town council won’t be dishing out hot dogs this year and instead will have a photo booth and will be offering marshmallows.

There have also been numerous other companies offering a helping hand for the event. Old Dutch has donated 12,000 bags of chips and generous pricing by Mark’s No Frills has made it possible to once again source the hot dogs locally, says Shelstad. Cochrane Rentals has come on board and are donating the use of their power equipment.

There will be no shortage of entertainment and activities. Stiltwalkers and a 10 ft. tall giant polar bear will be roaming the main street. The popular dancers from the Stoney Nakoda Nation are returning to perform in the town square and nearby award-winning chainsaw carver Brian Widahl will be carving an amazing bench onsite. Once completion, the carving will have a home at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre.

There are a few changes. The giant igloo won’t be utilized and instead, three tents in different locations will house children’s activities.

Due to popular demand, horse-drawn hay wagon rides are returning. Organizers had contemplated dropping the rides.

There won’t be any fireworks this year but Shelstad says they have a surprise or two up their sleeve that won’t be revealed until the night of the event.

“You’ll have to be on the streets to see it,” says Shelstad.

Once again Light Up is holding an online auction and proceeds this year will be donated the Big Hill Haven, who is gearing up to establish a women’s shelter in Cochrane. Volunteers of the Big Hill Haven will also be selling tickets for a 50-50 draw.

Shelstad has been involved with Light Up for six years now and says the level of community involvement has changed drastically in that time.

“Everybody just looks forward to it being a good community event. People really find pride in being involved in this event. I didn’t have to track down a lot of people, people came to us.”

Last year over12,000 people filled the Historic Downtown to make it the largest Light Up yet.

Next up will be the Parade of Lights on the Historical Main Street, Dec. 8.

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