Thieves managed to kill off a holiday tradition that has been running in Langley since 1991 – but a new initiative may breathe new life into the project for this year.
On Oct. 18, it was discovered that a sizeable amount of lights and extension cords used to set up the annual Christmas in Williams Park event had been stolen from a storage container.
â€œThe Grinch truly stole Christmas in Williams Park,â€ said Barb Sharp, president of the Christmas in Williams Park Society.
For the first time in more than two decades, the park may not be decked out in lights and displays, thanks to the loss of about $10,000 worth of equipment.
Save Christmas in Williams Park
Donâ€™t let the Grinch steal a much-loved Christmas tradition in Langley!
When the Christmas in Williams Park Society discovered that more than $10,000 of decorations had been stolen, the second major theft in as many years, they thought it had no choice other than cancel. The Langley Advance is calling on everyone to help it â€œsave Christmas.â€ If we can raise enough money in this crowdfunding campaign, the Societyâ€™s volunteers are willing to put in the extra hours to turn the lights back on.
This is the second year in a row the event has suffered serious loss to thieves. Last year, a massive late effort saved the event.
After the second theft was publicized, locals began coming forward with offers of help, and Sharp is now hopeful that at least a partial event can be organized with some new fundraising.
"There’s a groundswell kind of starting," Sharp said.
If the society can put together some funding and a few more volunteers, it could still run a two-week light up event, though the annual weekend festivities might still be out of the question, Sharp said.
Still, it would allow people to drive through the park and see some displays of Christmas lights, inflatables, and decorations.
"That’s a possibility," Sharp said.
Things are looking better than they were in late October and early November when the theft was first discovered.
The society had just started meeting and planning for the event when the theft was discovered. Replacing everything would have wiped out the cash reserves of the non-profit group.
â€œHow do you bounce back from that?â€ said Sharp. â€œOur volunteers are thinking, â€˜Again? We got hit again?â€™ It really is a disappointment.â€
Each year, Williams Park has been adorned with thousands of lights, inflatables, cut-outs, and other decorations that transform the natural space into a winter wonderland.
Guests are invited to drive through the park for two weeks, and the event has culminated with two nights of entertainment, horse-and-carriage rides, refreshments, and a visit from Santa.
Money to hold the annual event comes from donations collected from the public, and it is staged through the work and efforts of the volunteer-run society, with support from Langley Township staff.
Numerous community members, service groups, and organizations such as the Elks Club, Trinity Western University, CUPE, and local firefighters all come out to set up and clean up, serve food and drinks, and provide entertainment.
However, over the years, Christmas in Williams Parkâ€™s volunteer base has been diminishing, and those who have worked to make the event happen are feeling depressed by the rash of thefts and vandalism.
The volunteers donâ€™t think theyâ€™ll find their missing decorations and cords by searching online auction sites.
The police have told them the equipment was likely stripped for the wires inside, which was sold as scrap metal. The amount of money the thieves could have gotten for the wire as scrap is paltry compared to the amount it would cost to replace everything.
In December 2013, Christmas in Williams Park was under threat after many decorations were stolen and items vandalized.
Gemmy Industries of Dallas, Texas, read about the thefts of decorations and the vandalism at the parkâ€™s Christmas display.
â€œWe came across your original story online about the recent thefts this organization has suffered this year and felt the need to help return some of the holiday spirit,â€ company president Jason McCann told the Langley Advance in an email.
â€œWe hope our donation has helped to restore your communities holiday cheer and wish you all a Merry Christmas.â€
Volunteers were able to get the displays up for the annual walk-in event that is hugely popular with families because of activities such as horse-drawn carriage rides, pony rides, visits with Santa, hot chocolate and live entertainment.
In the time between this Christmas and next year, Sharp said the storage situation for the equipment will have to be upgraded somehow.
Sharp said that, during the hiatus, the society will seek help and contributions from the community to regenerate the event, along with a new place to store its decorations.
She has approval from the committee to look for support from other organizations, the business community, student groups, and clubs, as well as community volunteers.
â€œWe are going to turn a negative into a positive and come back with an event that is spectacular,â€ Sharp said.