Even during the pandemic, the annual Comox Valley Christmas Light Trucks will still light up the community this holiday season.
Organizers Erin and Kevin Kaetler, who run Strate Scapes Landscaping, started organizing the event about seven years ago. Last year, it went ahead on a smaller scale, and in 2020, with COVID-19 a key consideration, it will again be a little lower key. They will be driving their familiar red and green dump truck for sure, but they’re not certain if a second vehicle, the Pilon Tools truck, will be ready in time because it is currently being retrofitted. They plan on starting Saturday, Nov. 28 and expect to be out around four to five nights a week, from around about 5:30 to 8 p.m.
“We’re going to start a little bit early this year, just to get in as many weekends as we can before Christmas,” says Erin Kaetler.
They’ve also contacted RCMP about their plans and have taken steps to promote social distancing and other measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission, such as maintaining distances and wearing masks.
One of the big changes, they say, is that instead of collecting actual food donations for the local food bank this year, they will be collecting cash donations and providing a link on their Facebook page where people can donate directly to the food bank.
“We’re actually not going to collect any physical food this year,” she says. “That’ll be a harder one for people to grasp.”
This year, they would have to keep food in the truck and stored at their home until delivery to the food bank. The cash donations also bring a couple of other advantages: it allows the food bank to fill the gaps for certain types of food donations and financial donations also allow them to buy in quantity, making donations stretch a little further.
As far as the cash donations, the Kaetlers are planning on a safe means where people can make a donation at a safe distance.
Similarly, they expect to make some stops in the mall or other large parking lots but there will be no chance for people to visit the trucks as in past years. People could still be able to make a quick drive-by visit, just not stop and get out their vehicles for a look.
“In the past, we’ve gone and parked … in the mall parking lot and encouraged people to come and drop off donations,” Kaetler says. “We’re still trying to do what we can do. It’ll just look a little different.”
They plan on some neighbourhood visits in the months leading up to Christmas, but again, like other celebrations in recent months, they encourage residents to come out in their driveways for a look and a wave but at a safe distance.
“Most of our time will be spent driving through different areas of town,” Kaetler says.
As always, the event will make stops at local seniors’ residences or for hospice residents to have a look at the truck lights. In other years, they have tried to keep a safe distance, but it’s taken on a new level of importance in 2020.
“What we’ve done in the past is there’s been no contact there, for most of them anyway,” Kaetler says.
If Comox Valley Christmas Light Trucks is happening on a smaller scale, in a year that’s been tough for so many people, it becomes all the more important to find ways to spread a little seasonal cheer.
“For us, this year was more important than any other year because of how people are feeling,” she says.
The Kaetlers encourage people to keep up with the event on the Comox Valley Christmas Light Trucks page on Facebook where they post updates on where they’ll be starting Nov. 28, leading up until a few days before Christmas.