Light Up the Night returned to downtown Canby Friday night, as Santa and Mrs. Claus set up shop at the splendidly lit and decorated Wait Park gazebo — and brought along a few thousand of their friends.
The enthusiasm about the return of the beloved local tradition was obvious in the turnout. Though attendance was not tracked and reliable estimates are hard to find, organizers felt certain the turnout was larger than it had been the last few years before the pandemic — and several longtime attendees said it was the largest crowd they’ve ever seen at Wait Park for the annual tree lighting.
“I do think this was the biggest Light Up the Night ever,” said Mayor Brian Hodson, who helped lead Friday’s parade through downtown Canby and greeted the crowd at Wait Park.
“I get to see it from the gazebo each year, and I always judge [attendance] by how far around the gazebo the crowd goes, if it goes to 2nd Avenue and onto Grant. The crowd was wrapped all the way around the gazebo this year. It was definitely a full park.”
As has become tradition, the individual selected to flip the switch to turn on the tree and the rest of the holiday display at Wait Park was the winner of the Who Lights Up Canby?, an annual contest in which community members can be nominated for the honor and chosen by online vote.
This year’s pick was David and Paige Dewar, in honor of their eldest son, 16-year-old Matthew Dewar, who was killed in a two-vehicle crash on South Mulino Road while driving to school two weeks ago. The Dewars had been nominated by Canby City Councilor Shawn Varwig.
“The Dewar family asked me to share their immense gratitude for the overwhelming support they have received over the past two weeks,” Canby Economic Development Director and event emcee Jamie Stickel said. “The Dewars said that the love and support they have received was tenfold what they could have ever imagined. And so, on behalf of the Dewar family, I thank you, Canby, for lifting them up.”
Then, after the traditional countdown, the youngest Dewar son, 10-year-old Isaiah, and several of his friends took the stage to push the plunger on the festively decorated switch to trigger the lighting ceremony.
“They were a great choice,” Holdson told the Current. “David and Paige are wonderful people and are raising kind passionate young men. What happened with Matthew is tragic and would devastate any family.
“Through all of this tragedy, they have shared so much about Matthew’s own personal light and how Christ was a huge part of his life, that you can’t but help to feel Matthew’s warmth as a person.”
After the parade, Canby Fire Chief Jim Davis and Police Chief Jorge Tro escorted Santa (also known as longtime Canby resident Ed Grautski — or the “Real Actual Santa,” according to my kids) and Mrs. Claus (Judy Grautski) to the gazebo to the delight of thousands of waiting children.
Each one left with a candy cane, a glow bracelet from Santa’s helpers Linda and David Tate — and a promise that they would be pleased with what they found under the tree on Christmas morning.
“There are several things that make a great community,” said Canby City Councilor Greg Parker, who was also in attendance. “One of them is shared experiences. It was a joy to walk around the park and see friends and family together at a community event.”
“It is great to see things begin to normalize again,” agreed Varwig, who attended with his family. “Light Up the Night is such a special event for Canby, and I know how much it was missed by our family last year. Tonight’s turnout proves that it was clearly missed by many people. Kudos to Jamie Stickel and the City of Canby staff who made this event happen.”
Hodson admitted Light Up the Night is one of his favorite events, and he was delighted to see it return after being held virtually last year due to Covid-19.
“I really missed the event last year, and I thought it was important we bring it back this year,” Hodson said. “It kicks off the holidays; it’s such a special event. We need community togetherness. This event does that.”
This year’s celebration also included carols by the Oregon Trail Pitchpipers, Canby’s local barbershop quartet-style singing group, and a lively concert by The Wartime Orchestra, a local swing ensemble specializing in World War II-era, big band music.
Meanwhile, Equity Oregon, the Knights of Columbus and Canby Christian Church stayed almost as busy as Santa and Mrs. Claus, serving up free doughnuts and hot chocolate to help keep the winter chill at bay.
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