In the Spotlight

Elliot Place lights up: How a minor street gets major attention during the holidays

November, 2019

With only 17 residential homes dotting the crescent drive, Elliot Place is one of the smallest streets in St. Albert. But every December, the tiny lane tucked away in the Erin Ridge community hosts a seasonal lighting display that rivals other neighbourhoods in the city.

As far as holiday events involving oodles of glowing bulbs go, the Elliot Place version is rather casual. The neighbourhood attraction doesn’t have an official name, although Candycane Lane was used for a while. That was until other communities in the Capital Region adopted the moniker, adding to the confusion among those wanting to check out the lights.  And folks don’t follow any definitive opening and closing dates for the seasonal household installations, either.

“There is no formal meeting that decides any of that business, because nobody is in charge,” says Rein Selles, one of the residents in Elliot Place. “As the weather starts getting cooler, everybody starts putting everything up.”

Some might start as early as Thanksgiving, while others wait until Halloween’s final shrieks waft into the ether. But whenever the rollout of each household takes place, what they do put up is ambitious. Luminescent reindeer, Santa Claus, a Grinch theme, even a miniature train on a track circling a tree have been among some of the perennial draws on the lane. One enterprising resident projected onto a garage door an image of St. Nick placing presents under the tree while sampling one of the cookies that the generous homeowners left for him.

And then there was the case of one participant whose display consisted of an unlucky decorator clinging to the roof for dear life after his ladder slipped away. It certainly got a lot of attention from the thousands of spectators who visit the street each year, although reactions were mixed.

“A lot of people thought it was funny,” recalls Selles. “Other people, not so much.”

What’s unique about the Elliot Place setup is the array of arches on the sidewalk, meant to be an illuminated passage for visitors to cover the entire cul-de-sac on foot. It was an idea dreamed up by folks having a few drinks on a neighbour’s driveway, says fellow
participant Michel Bourgeois.

“It’s a big hit now,” says Bourgeois. “The archways go up before Halloween because of the cold weather. Try putting up something plastic when it’s minus-20. It snaps.”

“What makes it special is that people can walk through the arches, so everyone can get a good look at all the different lights on each house,” adds Selles. “If a car is driving through, it only takes a minute to see everything.”

Selles admits that vehicular traffic is higher during much colder weather, which has an effect on food bank donations, which he’s responsible for collecting in front of his home. Pedestrians tend to be more generous. But the event still manages to gather roughly 1,500 lbs. of food annually for the charity.

Despite the lack of formality over the event, Selles says the folks on the street do have to follow a common code: “Everyone participates as a rule and everyone has to do something different.” t8n

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