Bedford comes together again to kick off holiday season

Parade is back as COVID protocols help everyone have safe, merry time

Hundreds came together on Sunday for the 23rd annual Light Up Bedford parade, spreading the holiday spirit while raising money and donations of toys and food for local charities.

The mild weather and chilly wind made it the perfect night for families to come out, all bundled up, and celebrate the start of the holidays.

“We’ve been coming for a few years,” Jillian O’Fegan said.

“This year was the most exciting for sure. We’re so excited for the holidays, grateful to be able to have the event happen and we couldn’t ask for better weather, so it’s really a wonderful opportunity.”

The O’Fegan family with their festive hats, wait patiently for the parade to begin. Parents Richard and Jillian O’Fegan stand behind their children, Lucas and Charlotte.   Gabrielle Brunette

Lucas O’Fegan, 4, was most excited to see Santa, while sister Charlotte, 2, was excited to hear the trucks beep as they made their way through the parade. The pair were nestled up in a little red wagon in their viewing spot on the Bedford Highway.

Lucas, sporting a red toque with reindeer antlers, is no stranger to Christmas parades. He has been coming to them since he was a baby.

“This is my fourth time actually. This is her first time, because she’s two and I’m four,” he said. “Actually, this is my five time because I went yesterday.”

The Light Up Bedford parade began in 1998 as a way to bring people together, kick-start the holiday season and raise money for charity. The parade is organized each year by a committee of volunteers.

“It just really comes down to recognizing that sense of joy and excitement that children get this time of year, but really it’s children and adults alike,” Anne Marie Baker, co-chair of the parade committee, said in an interview.

This year, the parade began in DeWolf park, made its way along Bedford Highway and ended at Bedford Place Mall. Churches, restaurants and other organizations opened their doors to be hotspots and provide free hot chocolate and snacks along the route.

The parade was filled with floats from local dance, gymnastics and hockey clubs as well as shops and organizations. Firefighters also took part, collecting Santa letters from kids along the route.

The Village Shops at Dartmouth Crossing’s float makes its way down Bedford Highway on Sunday during Bedford’s holiday parade.   Gabrielle Brunette

Due to COVID-19, Bedford was unable to have a full parade last year. Instead, the committee organized a Santa tour across the community.

“Last year was the year we had to get very creative, so this year we’re thankful in a way to be able to go back to the traditional parade and make sure that anybody in our community or in neighbouring communities have an opportunity to come out,” Baker said.

There were some mixed feelings for families attending community gatherings with COVID-19 still a health risk in the province. Most groups remained within their own bubble, respecting social distancing.

“We’re a little cautious but sticking together. But it’s really nice to kind of have a little bit of a sense of normalism even if we have some protocols in place,” Meghan McCarthy said.

This was McCarthy and her family’s first time at the parade together. They stood on the corner of Waterfront Drive and Convoy Run waiting for the floats to arrive. Ally McCarthy, 4, had her Christmas letter in hand, ready to give to Santa. For the McCarthys the parade is a way to start off Christmas celebrations.

The McCarthys and their extended family, Cheryl Jenkins, Cecil Freeman, Ryan McCarthy, Meghan McCarthy and Ally McCarthy, enjoy Sunday’s parade along with dogs Ohana and Ozzy.   Gabrielle Brunette

Baker said the committee carefully reviewed provincial mandates and COVID protocols before planning the parade and decided, “We can do this, and we can do this safely.”

Recognizing that some families remain hesitant to partake in events with large crowds, the parade was broadcast live on the internet this year, ensuring everyone could enjoy the festivities.

Gabrielle Brunette

Gabrielle is a journalist for the Signal at the University of King's College. She completed her BAH in political studies at Queen's University.

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