Christmas is all about tradition. Twinkling lights, soft music, evergreen scents, and cookies fresh out of the oven. One of the most comforting and nostalgic traditions is our favourite couple, Mr. And Mrs. Claus.
They return to St. Albert at the inaugural Destination: Santa Station festival, a two-day event on Dec. 11 and 12. Located at St. Albert’s Grain Elevator Park and train station, the festival recreates a homespun North Pole outpost complete with elves while bringing back fond memories of a simpler time.
It’s an opportunity for kids of all ages to stroll through the toy workshop, stop for a cookie in Mrs. Claus’s kitchen, and share a bit of laughter and photo fun with Santa in the mailroom as he sifts through bags of children’s letters. Children are encouraged to drop off their letters to Santa.
Once back outdoors, carolers dressed in Edwardian costumes will sing Christmas songs while horse-drawn sleighs glide over fresh fallen snow in 15-minute intervals. Food vendors plan to serve hot beverages and food to keep the chill away.
The event is the brainchild of Meghan Rennick and Louise Berezowsky, two St. Albert residents who operated a scaled-down version in 2020 at Confections Dessert Bar. They created a ticketed event where Santa read a story. After a quick chat with the man in red, children received a cookie and left dreaming of Christmas-Day gifts.
“This year we looked around and thought the Grain Elevator [Park] would be the perfect spot. Creating this event supports our local community and brings attention to the rich cultural heritage we have in St. Albert, especially in Mission,” said Rennick.
Both organizers are mothers and community leaders who recognized that, without the Snowflake Festival and Glow, there could be a lack of holiday spirit.
“There’s a hunger for this type of event, and it’s possible to do it safely. We want to inspire community spirit and holiday cheer. We want to bring the community together to a community event run by volunteers,” Rennick added.
The festival is partnering with YOUCAN Youth Services. All net proceeds will be donated to the Edmonton-based non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth. The organization’s focus is to empower youth with knowledge, support, and skills that will help them transition into school or the work force.
Sheyanne Levall-Crouse, YOUCAN manager of donor relations, said that in an average year, the organization assists 300 youth from the entire Edmonton region including St. Albert. She explained many are in a cycle of harm because of homelessness, mental-health issues, school issues, or a necessary lack of empathy.
“Sometimes kids were not given the help they need,” said Levall-Crouse. The charity steps in to provide a variety of life skills such as developing a budget, finding a place to live, creating a work resume, and finding jobs. There is even a provision for providing conflict resolution and court support.
“Something very important is giving back to the community. You have the opportunity to save someone’s life and the ripple effect can be insurmountable.”
Levall-Crouse added that it costs up to $12,000 to fund the Verto Project, a 20-week pre-employment program.
“These kids need someone to show up for them. We have kids from every part of society — not just poor kids, but kids that made poor choices.”
Rennick and Berezowsky hope to make the festival a St. Albert staple in upcoming years. In the meantime, volunteers in every area are required from elves to ticket-takers. Shifts are three hours long. Staff and volunteers are required to always wear masks and provide proof of double vaccination. Interested volunteers can email Rennick at meg.lbphotoart.gmail.com.
The day-friendly event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $15 adults, $10 child, and those under two are admitted free. A family pass is $50. Tickets are available through www.eventbrite.ca.