For the Gerbhardt family, the Snowman Lane light up on December 3 is more meaningful than previous years.

Billie Jo Gerbhardt, the daughter of the Snowman Lane founders, Howard and Jill Gerbhardt, is stepping in to help her brother-in-law, Brad Wilson, since her sister passed away in January 2023.

“This year is 35 years,” says Gerbhardt. “For an all volunteer event, that’s pretty cool.”

Gerbhardt says her parents used to always take the family into Edmonton to see Candy Cane Lane. She says they were the storybook Christmas couple. Howard’s only condition was that Jill had to wait until after Halloween before she could start decorating.

“By November 1, you walked into our house and it was a storybook Christmas,” she says.

In the summer of 1988, Howard pitched an idea to Jill that started the tradition. He told her that they were going to bring Candy Cane Lane to 43 Street. and call it Snowman Lane.

“Their first stop was the neighbours next door, Vi and Jim Koemstedt, who were quick to agree how much fun it would be,” says Gerbhardt.

After engaging some of the neighbours on the other side of their house and talking to others along the street, the Gerbhardts set up a workbee to get some snowmen made. More than 25 snowmen were built that year and 20 houses were involved from 50 Avenue up to 48a Avenue.

Howard cut all of the pieces out, the ladies painted it, and others helped to put them together. Originally they were attached to a rod they could stick into the ground. Gerbhardt says the original snowmen are all still there.

Their first light up for Snowman Lane was on December 3, 1988.

A couple of years later, the neighbours on 43a Street decided they wanted to participate. And the event has grown until today with 55 houses participating.

Howard passed away in 1992 and Jill sold the house to her daughter Deb and her husband Brad. The Wilsons have been running it ever since.

“My mom passed away in June (2022) and with my sister passed, we wanted to make this year a tribute to them,” says Gerbhardt.

While Gerbhardt currently resides in Calgary, she still knows many people in the community. She got on the phone as soon as she could to start lining up some activities to make the event one to remember.

“Everyone just stepped up in a huge, huge way,” says Gerbhardt.

The festivities are slated to start at 6 p.m. on 43 Street. south of 50 Avenue. In front of Frank Maddock, the Drayton Valley Thunder will be playing a street hockey game for families to enjoy. Aim for Success will be hosting Snowman Games, and there will be a bonfire with Christmas music.

“Every year on the first Sunday of the month we have our annual celebration, which always includes live music by Roli Mack and Cody Burrell, fire pits, hot chocolate, cookies, our dancing snowmen and Santa hands out treats to everyone,” she says.

At 7 p.m., the most anticipated event begins. Each house on the street will begin to turn on their lights. Mayor Nancy Dodds will be speaking and Gerbhardt says she and Brad intend to speak about the efforts of the family and their determination to see the event continue.

Gerbhardt says they will be accepting donations for Santas Anonymous and the food bank.

By Amanda Jeffery, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Nov 30, 2023 at 11:50

This item reprinted with permission from   Free Press   Drayton Valley, Alberta

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