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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Santa Claus stops by during Kingsville Fantasy of Lights Festival

by Max de Liberato

There was a sea of warmly dressed citizens at the 27th annual Fantasy of Lights Festival celebration in Kingsville on the weekend. The true warmth, however, happened at this year’s Santa Claus Dinner.

  Patrons of the Santa Claus Dinner were able to enjoy a night out with their families and indulge on a pasta dinner, complete with salad and a roll. The dinner provided the community’s youth the opportunity to meet with Santa himself, giving some children one last chance to avoid a lump of coal in their stockings.

  “When he [Santa] walks in the door and the kids start to see him, just listening to the little ones, it kind of brings back memories from when we were little,” Tony Gaffan, a Kingsville Town Councillor, said at the event.

  Gaffan said the food and time it took to prepare the dinner was donated by Eat, Drink, Dine Kingsville.

  “It brings you together as a community, it’s been a big tradition with the Dinner with Santa,” Gaffan said. “My father was one of the ones [who] started the Fantasy of Lights, so when I got onto Council it was like, ‘This is awesome, I can continue the legacy and make it grow into different things.’ We’ve also added breakfast with Santa, which is next week, and again it’s to bring the community together. That’s what makes Kingsville a little bit better place to live, because we’re more of a big family.”

  According to Gaffan, the Santa Claus Dinner sold approximately 200 tickets in advance, with 300 total participants expected by night’s end.

  The proceeds of the ticket purchase price will go back into the city’s budget to buy more displays for the Fantasy of Lights, Gaffan said.

  Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos said The Fantasy of Lights features 200 displays, five of which are new and remodelled this year. The displays are spread-out throughout Lakeside Park.

  “For us, it’s truly bringing everyone together at a time when there can be so many challenges in the world,” Mayor Santos said. “This is truly a peaceful festival, this is an event that brings our community to celebrate, the work again from volunteers, the staff, the high school students, those [who] really take pride and joy in watching their display come to life during the festival.”

  The event also featured a parade, which attracted a large crowd of attendees.

  “To see everyone lining up along our streets from start to finish was truly exciting and [I am] truly proud to see everyone enjoying their time together with family,” Santos said.

  The evening festivities came to a close that night with a ceremony to kick off the season, flipping the novelty-sized power switch to ignite the lights, followed by the blasting off of fireworks. As Santa rode away on his brand-new sleigh, the residents quietly returned home to be with their families that night in what likely felt like Whoville, instead of Kingsville.  

  From dinner to finale, the town was left with a frozen smile as temperatures reached a low of minus six that day, but kept warmth in their stomachs and in their spirits.

  The Fantasy of Lights Festival will run for its traditional six weeks, until the end of the first week of January. People from all over Southwestern Ontario and Windsor/Essex County come to enjoy the festivities, according to the Mayor.

  “I think the festival itself is a true celebration of community coming together and enjoying a time out in the great winter land.” Santos said.


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