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South Slave

Hay River keeps holiday spirit alive despite Covid-19


In the coming weeks, residents of Hay River looking for holiday cheer can check out everything from the classic Santa Claus parade to a new event at the town’s territorial park.

Those hoping to check out this year’s floats and see Santa will have the chance on Friday, November 27 at 6:30pm. The Santa Claus parade, like Hay River’s Canada Day parade, will take a longer route through residential areas instead of sticking to the main street.

Floats will meet at 6pm in Bob McMeekin Park and start their drive. The route eventually crosses the highway and ends on the service road near Keith’s Water Services.

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A map of the route for the Hay River Santa Claus Parade. The green star is the start point, while the blue one is the end point.

The lighting of the mayor’s tree will begin at 6:15pm, before the floats depart on their route.

The town recommends that families watch the parade from their home or vehicles in order to avoid gathering.

“Do not gather with people from outside of your household. If watching outside, please wear a mask if physical distancing cannot be maintained,” the flyer for the event states.

Nicole Mitchell, the organizer of the parade, plans to live-stream the parade on the Town of Hay River Recreation Facebook page.

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Hay River campground Christmas

Meanwhile, you can drive through a small winter wonderland at the Hay River Territorial Park.

For the first time, a loop of campsites will be adorned with holiday decorations and lights by businesses and residents.

The event will take place from December 4 to 6, with residents able to visit the campsite from 6pm to 10pm.

Admission is by grocery or cash donation.

Judy Pratt, one of the organizers, said it’s an event families can enjoy from a vehicle, making it easy to stay in a bubble.

“It just brings a little bit of festivity to the town in what might have been a season that didn’t have anything,” Pratt said.

At the end of the tour, visitors can hand in their votes for the best campsites. The top three campsites in two categories – business and resident – will win prizes.

Fort Smith is running a similar event called Light Up the Park in Queen Elizabeth Territorial Park. The event will run from December 13 until December 24, according to its Facebook page. Decorating of the campsites will take place from December 9 to 12.

Annual Secret Santa

Hay River’s annual Secret Santa has started with a new program coordinator, Tracy Cross Gauthier.

The event seeks toy donations for children aged up to 17. E-transfers are accepted, which will go toward groceries to supply people with Christmas dinners.

People visiting the bottle centre can donate their returns by indicating they would like the balance applied to the Secret Santa account.

Donations are being collected until December 16.

Cross Gauthier says the tradition is even more important this year because people in the community have been struggling financially in the pandemic.

“Since Covid hit back in March, it’s had a devastating effect on families in Hay River. Even if you were able to keep your job, a lot of jobs had hours drastically reduced,” she said.

“It’s about the kids and getting them a little something under the tree. I just think it’s really important, especially this year.”

She adds many people are not able to be with their families and friends this season, so spreading the holiday spirit will be even more important.

She says in past years, 80 to 100 families participated in the program to receive gifts and Christmas dinners.

The major change to the program this year is people cannot get together in bigger groups to wrap presents, something community members typically enjoy.

Those looking to volunteer to wrap presents can find information on the event’s Facebook page.

If you’re looking to donate gifts, a campsite at the Campground Christmas event will accept donations or there are boxes at various town locations.

Toy Drive

The 10th annual Toy Drive will happen in Hay River on December 5, starting at 11am.

Hay River Emergency Services will drive through the community to collect toys.

“Watch and listen for the lights and sirens as we will be driving through the community collecting donations of new, unwrapped gifts,” the event’s flyer reads.

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