Did your decorating pay off? The Winter Lights judges were in St. Marys last week to determine if our town had the bright stuff when it comes to town pride, beauty and the holiday spirit.
The judges for the 3,001 - 6,000 population category in the Winter Lights competition are Karen Neerhof of Owen Sound and Lisa Redpath of Prince George, BC. They received the royal treatment while touring St. Marys, taking in all the attributes the town has to offer.
Mayor Tony Winter greeted our guests at the Town Hall on December 14, and the judges were escorted on a two-day whirlwind tour that included dinner and a reception at the Friendship Centre before turning in for the evening at the Westover Inn.
The next day, they visited local businesses and enjoyed a walking tour through the downtown where they stopped for lunch at A Bowl Full before continuing with their sightseeing.
Before dinner at Smith & Latham, they were whisked off on an impressive outdoor tour of the light display at The Flats by horse and buggy, which was followed by an additional tour of town and business light displays by car.
Neerhof said that "By participating in a national competition, you are able to network with other communities and how you can improve on your community and share ideas to promote your community nationally."
During the reception at the Friendship Centre, Neerhof spoke about the concepts behind the Winter Lights Celebration, saying that it showcases our community, not just during the typical summer tourist season, but in the slower winter months.
"The Winter Lights Celebration focuses on how we can showcase to residents and tourists and you are always trying to find something to do in the winter. We have a lot to offer here in Canada. There are a lot of activities to do in our communities, including St. Marys."
She explained that small towns are precious and we should honour our past and create something wonderful for our children.
She also explained the five different criteria that judges use when visiting Winter Lights competitors:
1 - Festive Celebrations: activities that take place during the Christmas season;
2 - Winter Pleasures: winter events that enhance community living, like the Christmas open house, skating competitions, the Maple Sugar Festival and Candlelight tour of homes, etc.;
3 - Visual Presentation: how the community looks as a whole, including downtown businesses, industrial sectors and homes, and participation by the municipal government, service groups, churches, etc.
4 - The Goodwill Program: the many ways in which a community helps its needy.
5 - Tourism and Promotion: looks at how the community promotes itself as a great place to visit and live, including partnerships between public, private and community sectors.
The other communities in competition with St. Marys are Armstrong, BC, Espanola, ON, Chetwynd, BC, Petrolia, ON, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL and Winter Lights will make the awards announcement on February 11 at Fort St. John, BC.
Town competition results
On Friday, December 16 the St. Marys Winter Lights Committee announced the winners in the home and business competition organized by the Town of St. Marys. There were 18 entries in the home division with first place going to Larry and Pat Joosse, second to Chris Damen and third to Barry and Tracy Mielke. In the business division, Westover Inn won first place, Simply Sew placed second and Cascade Cleaners third.