WDM’s Light Up the Village a bright spot in a pandemic winter

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped the Western Development Museum from going ahead with Light Up the Village 2020.

In fact, the event is going ahead again this holiday season, with organizers having increased the number of lighted displays and expanded hours from weekends to all week long.

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From Dec. 1, 2020 to Jan. 9, 2021 the gates open to the general public for driving tours. There will be expanded hours of operation from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. each day.

“The WDM opened the village in the winter for the first time in 2017 in the hopes that the public would want to pay a small admission fee to see some of the buildings decorated for the holiday season. We had very few decorations, so we did the best we could with what we had and from what donations came in from the public,” says Shirley Maze, Light Up the Village co-ordinator.“It was slim pickings that first year. When we look back we chuckle at our efforts, not realizing then, how many lights and how big the décor was going to have to be to make a visual impact, but the public still seemed to enjoy it.”

Maze says the event seemed to appeal to people’s sense of tradition.

“I believe driving through the village in the winter took people back to a simpler time and was nostalgic for many.” 

In the second year, the WDM approached a few businesses to see if they would help decorate some of the buildings and they provided the lights and décor to do this. 

“This helped a great deal to make it a bigger appeal to our visitors,” says Maze.

But there is always more to consider than the obvious when it comes to working with historic artifacts and buildings, and there is only so much that can be done.

“Because some of our buildings are heritage buildings, we have rules and regulations about how we can decorate to ensure we do as little damage as possible,” says Maze.

Each year, people request that the WDM decorate more artifacts, she adds. Although it would be wonderful to see this, if it is not possible to do without causing damage, the museum’s first commitment is to the protection of its collection. But, says Maze, organizers are coming up with plans to enhance the display without compromising that collection.

“We are working at creating more stand alone displays to assist with the longevity of the artifacts,” she explains. 

In 2019 the museum was able to add more lights and more businesses came forward voluntarily to help out. 2020 came along and they had high hopes of making it even bigger and better. Then, the pandemic hit. The WDM had to cancel public events, adjust hours and institute provincial safety guidelines at all its locations, but because it was an outdoor event, Light Up the Village remained a bright light to look forward to in the winter season.

Maze says, “In the spring when businesses had to close due to COVID-19 and so many public events were cancelled, this was one that we were very happy to be able to go forward with.”

With an appeal to the community, the show could not only go on, but it could be even bigger and better.

“This is the first time we asked for financial support and are extremely happy with the response from our sponsors. With this help we have been able to add many new displays,” say Maze.

The WDM hopes this year’s event will light up the winter, expanding despite the pandemic and perhaps even being helped by it in a paradoxical way.

“2020 is a year none of us expected or know how to deal with, and our hope is that Light Up the Village will bring a little joy to the lives of everyone who visits it,” days Maze.  

Light Up the Village gates open Dec. 1 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. every evening until Jan. 9, except for statutory holidays. Admission is $10 per car (maximum of five guests from the same household or your “bubble”). New this year is a season pass for $30 allowing families to come and tour as many times as they like. Passes are available now. The WDM can also accept debit or credit card at the admission gate this year.  

Saskatchewan Health Regulations must be adhered to by everyone attending this event.  

All net proceeds from Light Up the Village goes to restoration and repairs needed in the Heritage Village. 


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