December 10, 2006

Newcomer to Candy Cane Lane an instant convert

Mayor lauds community spirit of residents

Jodie Sinnema, The Edmonton Journal

Published: Sunday, December 10 2006

EDMONTON – Mark Grozic had never been to Candy Cane Lane, despite living in Edmonton his whole life.

One month ago, he moved in, bought $2,000 worth of lights and ornaments and plugged in.

“I love it,” said Grozic, his living room still in pieces from his move. His front lawn, however, is alight with snow globes, a penguin and a train. “It keeps everybody together.”

Grozic, 33, plans to dress up as Santa Claus today and disguise his son as an elf so they can amble down the street giving out treats to kids.

Candy Cane Lane, which runs the length of 148th Street from 92nd Avenue to 100th Avenue, has been putting on a light show since the 1970s. Most of the houses along the eight-block stretch hang simple strings of lights along their roof line, but many show off wood cutouts of the Magi, reindeer tramping on the roof, or even more elaborate displays.

Aimee Branting said she’s been involved in the twinkling festival since 1993 and loves the fact that it’s free, except for a donation to the Food Bank. The effort brings in 25,000 kilograms of food for the needy each year.

Most everyone along the strip participates in the celebration, but Branting said if you see a darkened house, it’s likely the home of elderly residents who have difficulty setting up the displays, or people of different religious backgrounds who don’t celebrate Christmas.

Last year, she said, only 10 houses opted out.

“In kids’ eyes, it’s never the same. It’s magical,” Branting said.

She remembers when it only cost $200 each season to flick the light switch, but she tries not to analyze the bills now, saying she doesn’t expect the city to pitch in with electricity rebates.

Instead, the city plowed the street, set out garbage cans and sends police cars to monitor the traffic.

Mayor Stephen Mandel said the community has asked city council to upgrade the regular street lighting in the area with more light standards, which would cost about $121,000.

That will likely be discussed soon, he said.

“One of the things I deeply believe in is community,” Mandel said after officially opening the lane Saturday evening. “Oftentimes, we’re missing the ‘love your neighbour’ kind of stuff. These people are committed and we have to maintain these kinds of spirits.”