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‘The perfect storm’: Christmas crowds pack Airdrie, Alta. park for light festival

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CALGARY —
Members of a group that manages Airdrie’s Festival of Lights as well as city officials say they are working together to ensure the holiday display continues to glow throughout the season.

This weekend was the opening for the Airdrie Festival of Light Society’s annual event, a light show that’s known to bring residents from all over the Calgary area to the city.

However, some said the crowds at the display, set up at Nose Creek Park, became far too large and there wasn’t room for physical distancing.

In response to the situation, the AFOL and City of Airdrie both say they will be working on different ways to limit crowds and ensure all visitors are kept safe.

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“We are aware of capacity in the park last night, and have been in talks all morning with AHS, the City of Airdrie, RCMP and municipal enforcement, and are once again PIVOTING!” the AFOL wrote in a post on its Facebook page Sunday morning.

“We will be opening, however, restrictions will be even more enhanced, and we are going to need the public’s assistance.”

City officials echoed the statements, saying it is assisting in making the event safer for everyone.

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“We have been in touch with the non-profit organization that puts on the Festival of Lights this morning,” the city wrote in a Facebook post. “They had already reached out to Environmental Public Health (through the Alberta Government) for assistance in making this event safer.”

The City of Airdrie also said the festival was given the go-ahead by EPH, as long as it did not include its regular food service, Christmas train and activities inside a tent.

However, the favourable weather brought more visitors than expected.

“Between the nice weather, people coming out from Calgary and this being their opening weekend, it was the perfect storm for crowds to become too large. The organizers will be working with EPH and municipal enforcement to ensure future nights will follow all protocols set out by EPH.”

On Sunday afternoon, the society announced new rules for the event that include mandatory masking, blocking off common areas like the playground and picnic tables, ensuring one-way travel on pathways and more.

CTV News has contacted Alberta Health Services for comment on the discussions surrounding safety at the holiday event.

The AFOL says it is also seeking volunteers to help with their efforts throughout the holiday season. Anyone interested can contact the society by email.

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