Duncan Kicks off Holiday Season

It’s Christmas time in the city.

Everyone has been planning and decorating and now it’s time to enjoy all the sparkle of the holiday season as Duncan lights up with its annual Christmas Kick-off on Friday, Nov. 28.

The fun all starts at 5:30 p.m. and continues until 8:30 and there’s lots to see and do, according to Catherine Macey from the Duncan Business Improvement Area Society.

"All the old favourites are back with some new twists," she said.

City of Duncan employees have been putting up decorations and the DBIA kicks off its effort with its Christmas Forest in City Square.

Businesses and agencies purchase trees and they are placed around the area behind City Hall, making for an interesting walk and adding to the beauty of City Square.

"The trees have just arrived this morning," Macey said Tuesday. "And they will be all decorated by Friday. Some of the community groups are coming Wednesday to do theirs. The trees always look cool with different coloured lights, unique decorations."

The DBIA mascot contest is back again, too. Walking around town, shoppers will be able to see a little stuffed grey and white penguin in almost every window.

"He’s very sweet. A lot of people think he’s an owl but he’s actually a little penguin. And he’s going to be in a lot of different windows," she said.

The contest surrounding the mascot is a little different this year.

In previous years, participants had to find specific mascots on specific streets but now the game is simplified.

"Look in the middle of the program.

This year we’re asking for three from every street. People can go around and pick the ones they want, like three from Craig, three from Jubilee. They won’t be hunting for a specific penguin on a specific street. Then there will be two prizes of $50 each for that. People can get information about that contest at the DBIA info booth," Macey said.

Another fun part of the celebration that’s back for 2014 is the hayride.

"It’s going to be lit up, too. We’ll have lights to put on the back of it and there will be a little PA system with someone to lead the carols. Hopefully people will sing along as they ride around," she said.

The kick-off itself starts officially at 5:30 p.m. with a welcome from dignitaries and then, at 6:15 p.m., Santa Claus will arrive.

There is a big change in that this year, Macey said.

"Santa is not arriving on the roof of City Hall. He’s going to be arriving by fire truck instead. He’ll be leaving the Duncan fire hall in one of their antique trucks. They’ll be driving down Duncan Avenue from the fire hall, around the corner on Government and back down Canada, then left on Station and right on Craig."

In other words, it’s a short Santa Parade through the core of Duncan.

"And the truck will have the old-fashioned sounding siren, too. We’re hoping this will add to the build up, too, because it’s right at people level. We’ll see what the weather’s like but the plan is to have him standing on the truck in full view.

"He’ll be ending up in his usual location right in front of City Hall. We’ll have his chair set up there and we’ll get a line going to let kids come up and talk to him," she said.

There’s plenty of entertainment, too, during the event.

"We’ve got two stages. City Square we’re calling the Main Stage and the Smiley Sisters band will be opening that show and getting the audience participating. Then, we also have a group with a great name – Random Acts of Carolling – and they will be singing, too. Then the Smiley Sisters will come back and lead right up to the fireworks.

"The other stage, which we’re calling the Community Stage, is by Just Jakes on Craig Street. We’ll have the Queen of Angels choir, the Queen Margaret’s choir and some dancers from Carlson’s who will be doing hip hop and some zumba. And the Cowichan Valley Community Concert Band will be playing there, too," Macey said.

People can also enjoy the unique ambience of walking around downtown at Christmas time. "Duncan is so beautiful at this time of year, warm and inviting," she said.

Throughout the year, the DBIA offers the chance to purchase Downtown Dollars, basically a gift certificate for any of the shops or businesses anywhere in the downtown area.

"We decided this year to make them seasonal by calling them Holly Dollars. And they are gift certificates you can buy from our DBIA office at 203-111 Station Street to give to someone. They are accepted at any downtown business," Macey said.

And, while you are strolling, searching for mascots and shopping, why not try some roasted chestnuts?

"We will have three different barrels going, mostly around City Square," she said.

The Kick-off celebration ends with a display of fireworks, starting at 8:10 p.m.

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