Cookstown’s Light Up Night usually draws hundreds, if not thousands of visitors to the Victorian-era village located at the crossroads of County Road 27 and Highway 89 – for sales, Christmas treats, carolling, lighting up of the village Christmas tree, and an annual Santa Claus Parade.
It’s an evening that has become a village-wide party - almost a reunion - bringing together neighbours, old friends and former residents to celebrate the holiday season.
But this year, in the words of Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin, it was “absolutely not the Light Up Night you’re used to.”
COVID-19 concerns meant that there would be no crowds, no carolling on the streets – and no night-time illuminated Santa Claus parade.
But there was also no keeping villagers and the Cookstown Chamber of Commerce from finding a way to ensure that Santa would arrive on schedule.
On Saturday, the local Chamber of Commerce, thanks to sponsors and generous donors, was able to hold a "Family Photo session with Santa” in the parkette beside Hambly Insurance, on King Street South. Families could pre-register to have professional photographer Kristy Simpson snap their photos while visiting with Santa and Mrs. Claus – at a distance.
Families, while they could remove their face masks in the outdoor venue, were strictly kept at least two metres away from Santa.
Kathy Simpson was one of the ‘elves’ who set up Santa’s temporary workshop in the village. People would stop as she and other volunteers decorated or put up signs, simply to say “thank you” for helping to bring the spirit of the season to town, she said.
“People have been appreciating the little things,” agreed Elf Emily.
After the photo session, the Clauses were ushered into an antique buggy pulled by two draft horses, for a “Santa Drive-By” that visited every street in the village - waving at everyone who came out to watch as they passed.
And at 5 p.m., Mayor Dollin, assisted by Ward Councillor Rob Nicol and his son Wyatt, led the countdown on social media to light up Cookstown’s Christmas tree.
“A very merry Christmas,” said Mayor Dollin, as the tree-lighting was live-streamed on Facebook. “And 2021 has to be better than 2020!”