A Grinch determined to steal Christmas has managed to do just that with the cancellation of a Langley holiday tradition that has delighted thousands since 1991.
“The Grinch truly stole Christmas in Williams Park,” said Barb Sharp, president of the Christmas in Williams Park Society.
For the first time in more than two decades, Williams Park will not be decked out in thousands of twinkling lights and fun Christmas displays for all to enjoy, because thieves have made off with more than $10,000 worth of decorations.
This is the second year in a row the event has suffered a loss to thieves, and there is not enough time to come up with the money and manpower required to stage the event this year, said Sharp.
The theft was discovered at the end of October, after the society had started meeting and planning for the 2014 event.
“How do you bounce back from that?” said Sharp. “Our volunteers are thinking ‘Again? We got hit again?’ It really is a disappointment.”
Each year, Williams Park has been adorned with thousands of lights, inflatables, cut outs, and other decorations that transform it into a winter wonderland.
For 22 years, guests were invited to drive through the park over a two-week time period with the event has culminated with two nights of entertainment, horse and carriage rides, refreshments, and a visit from Santa.
Money to hold the annual event comes from donations collected from the public and it is staged through the hard work and efforts of the volunteer-run Society, with support from Township of Langley staff. Numerous community members, service groups, and organizations such as the Elks Club, Trinity Western University, CUPE, and local firefighters all come out to set up and clean up, serve food and drinks, and provide entertainment.
However, over the years, Christmas in Williams Park’s volunteer base has been diminishing and those that have worked so hard to make the event happen are depressed by the rash of thefts and vandalism.
“We lost all the lights we had,” said Sharp. “The volunteers were so deflated. What can we do? The community has been very generous in the past, but we simply can’t raise enough money in that time frame.”
This is not the end of Christmas in Williams Park, however.
Sharp said that, during the hiatus, the society will seek help and contributions from the community to regenerate the event, along with a new place to store its decorations. She has approval from the committee to approach the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce and the business community, and seek support from student groups, clubs, and community volunteers.
“We are going to turn a negative into a positive and come back with an event that is spectacular,” Sharp said.
Last year, one day after Christmas in Williams Park opened, thieves snuck in and stole numerous inflatables and cut a number of wires to the lights. This was followed by thieves breaking into a storage locker in February, stealing a large number of lights and extension cords.