It’s become a tradition to visit the village during the St. Jacobs Sparkles event, taking in the Christmas lights that line the streets and exploring the holiday-themed setting. As with most things this year, the coronavirus pandemic has prompted some changes, in this case extending the event from four days to six weeks.
Many of the usual activities associated with the start-of-the-season event have been changed or dropped in compliance with public health measures.
“Normally we have carolers, horse drawn-trolleys, shuttle buses and limo rides. And of course, all of those things are [virus] friendly. So this year we did our best to make the village extra sparkly,” said Brittany Burgess, lead of events for the St. Jacobs BIA.
The goal of this year’s Sparkles event was to ensure that people would be able to enjoy the tradition, while keeping their safety the priority.
“We have lots of photo opportunities throughout town. We did relight the Christmas tree, the big tree in front of the Lutheran Church, which is beautiful. And we’ve installed some more light displays throughout town,” she said.
Along with more decorations, many of the businesses are offering extended hours of operation to provide shoppers with more options. As well, the old Thoman Tire building, which is in the process of being transitioned into the Three Sisters Cultural Centre, has been decorated as Santa’s Workshop.
“They’re not quite up and running yet,” Burgess noted of the cultural centre, “so they’ve offered us their space. And we will have Santa here for at least the remainder of November on the weekends, and hopefully into December.”
The workshop will allow children the opportunity to wave at Santa and see him in his shop, as visiting with him has been vetoed this year due to the pandemic. Children are also encouraged to drop off their letters to Santa at the workshop/cultural centre.
Burgess says on an average year they see thousands of people come down for the four-day event. This time around, the BIA doesn’t know what to expect. “I have a feeling that we will still be busy on this weekend just because everyone is used to coming sort of right after Remembrance Day, but we’re hopeful that everyone will continue to come all the way right up until Christmas because we are offering the late-night shopping,” said Burgess.
With Waterloo Region having moved to the yellow zone of the provincial framework of reopening this past weekend, many local businesses have reduced the numbers of patrons in the store and implemented the new measures. St. Jacobs is known as a popular tourist town for people in and around southern Ontario and, more importantly, positively affected regions in the red zone like Peel. The village will be closely following public health measures throughout the six week season.
“We encourage people to still come to St. Jacobs while being safe – they can come at any time, day or night. The majority of the village is open seven days a week. So don’t just think about Sparkles as a four-day event, think about how much St. Jacobs sparkles throughout the whole holiday season. And whether you’re coming to shop or coming to enjoy just the beauty of the village in all of our lights and beautiful displays, our priority is to keep everyone safe while still having a lot of Christmas spirit.”