Scott Johnson and Alex Toporowski pitched in to help at the set up weekend.

Langley park transformed into a drive-thru winter wonderland

Oh, the weather outside was frightful, but the volunteers were so delightful at Williams Park.

For the past 26 years, volunteers have made the difference in bringing Christmas to Langley’s Williams Park. On Saturday and Sunday volunteers again braved the cold, wet weather to set up lights, arrange wood cutouts and create the drive-through winter wonderland locals have come to love.

Scott Johnson, parks and services coordinator with Langley Township, helped lead the team of Township staff and volunteers in creating the winterscape. Together with Barb Sharp of the Christmas in Williams Park Society, the pair works with other dedicated individuals to organize set up, coordinate volunteers and arrange all aspects of the park decorating.

Visitors can enjoy the Christmas drive-through scenes and holiday music in the evenings from Dec. 5 to 17. There are greeters on hand to chat to guests before and during the drive. They are often Elks or Lions club members who in addition to talking to visitors also collect donations for the society.

“We hope for a donation,” Johnson said. “It goes to the Christmas in Williams Park Society. It’s a registered society. It all goes back into the park again.”

Funds help to replace lights and pay for maintenance materials that contribute to the park’s decorations. This can include paint for the wood cutouts that regularly need sprucing up after being out in the elements the previous season.

“They’re pretty old,” noted Johnson of many of the cutouts. “We’ve upgraded and replaced and saved the ones that could be saved. Some are over 25 years old.”

Like the cutouts, many volunteers have come back to the park year after year. Alex Toporowski’s mom encourages Toporowski, and his brother and sister to volunteer at the set up with her. It’s their third year helping during the decoration weekend.

“They’re just having a blast,” Johnson said. “He’s smiling all the time. They work hard through it.”

Toporowski repaired a piece of wood while talking to Johnson about the experience.

“Every year a lot of the same families come back,” noted Johnson. “There is a woman who comes every year because her nephew, who is disabled, loves to come see the park decorated, so she comes and helps set it up.”

The volunteer spirit goes back a long way, to Gail Aitkens who had the nickname of The Powerman, Johnson noted. Aitkens passed away in 2010, but his wife still brings home-baking to volunteers to celebrate the times Aitkens volunteered to ensure power for lights, music, and all aspects of the park set up were accommodated.

The Powerman would have been excited by the new addition to the decorations.

Johnson wouldn’t give the surprise away fully but noted that he and Sharp travelled to the U.S. to purchase a special piece of display equipment. He believes it will be the centrepiece of this year’s decorations.

For those looking for a local pre-Christmas celebration, driving through Williams Park may be the ideal way to start the season.

PHOTO: Anthony Speranza is one of the Township parks operations team members and helped with the set up on the weekend of Nov. 26 and 27. (Ronda Payne/Langley Advance)

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