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The lights of Estevan got brighter

"It's my new happy memory." A column on the Festival of Lights at Woodlawn Regional Park.
Woodlawn Park 32
The 2021-22 Festival of Lights at Woodlawn Regional Park.

The holiday season is over, but the great memories about it will stay with me for a long time.

This year, one of the most heart-warming impressions I got from Estevan was the twinkle lights.

First, I just like them in general. I love when they are hanging over the streets. I get hypnotized with lit-up Christmas trees. I love looking at decorated houses. And Estevan had lots of it this holiday season, I think more than I've ever seen before.

But what was even more fascinating is the latest edition of the Festival of Lights.

I've made it to every single event throughout the last five years, and by no means does it get old.

The first time we drove through the very first Festival of Lights was on Christmas Eve 2017, and that little adventure, paired with a twinkle tour through Estevan, made me feel as Christmassy as one can be.

I remember how in December 2018 I took my Russian friends who had just come to Canada down to Woodlawn. It was pretty cold, and I wanted to entertain them as much as I could. They also came from my home city with five million people, and I thought not much can impress them. (I used to have the same thoughts about myself, and I still keep having fun breaking stereotypes about big city people). They were fascinated.

Not only were the displays fun, interesting and just great to look at, but the idea of the entire event was mesmerizing. Being business people, they were well aware of how important advertising and public relations are. But taking these business essentials and turning them into a community-bonding Christmas festival was something new and inspiring for them.

The Festival of Lights is a unique event that shows that Estevan cares about Estevan. From year to year, it demonstrates how generous, creative and thought-through our city is. It allows us to get through our harsh winters, forget about our problems and just comfortably enjoy the world of imagination.

This year's festival was so far the biggest one. Dozens of businesses, organizations and private groups worked hard alongside Woodlawn Regional Park's volunteers so that we could have something great to do. And the way it sounds, almost everyone in the community, in all the surrounding towns and villages and probably even further out, took the opportunity to check it out.

My friends from Calgary and I ended up enjoying the displays four times. And every time it was a different wonderful experience. Plus, we were warm and still could do something fun for everyone, which wasn't the case most of the holidays.

Kids were excited to spot the details and do some scavenger hunting games, while we cruised through this winter wonderland. For us adults, it was just something cozy and happy. It was a corner of happiness and silence, a place where you turn into a kid again and despite all the odds and issues that come with adulthood, start believing in miracles again.

And the park settings themselves added to that magical spirit as every time we went, we would run into a deer or a squirrel around the exit. Not that we have a lack of those creatures in the area, but seeing them with all the twinkle lights made me feel like there was Happy hiding somewhere behind the tree and Snow White just napping in one of the toy houses.

Maybe because it had more displays and details, maybe because kids were enjoying the festival with me this time, or because of the ideas some of the participants implemented at their displays, I'm not sure why exactly, but this year's Festival of Lights turned into my little happy den. A happy place, to which I can return in my thoughts when I get tired of daily routine, of life hiccups and concerning news – the world is full of these days. An escape that was so rich in real life, that even virtually it completely changes how I feel when I think about it.

In my mind, I just go back to those quiet, lit-up paths. I slowly travel through them, enjoy the warmth of the lights, smile at some of the jokes people told through the displays and feel calm and released. And I also feel grateful that I live in such a wonderful community, surrounded by great people that did put many, many hours so I and thousands of other grown-up and real kids could just be kids, enjoy the magic of the moment, indulge in Christmas spirit and just be happy for the sake of it.

So to everyone involved with the event, from me and all people I took through the festival over the years – we say huge thank you!