Brenda McArthur was back up a ladder Friday, helping to bring the Christmas season to Queen Street.
There was a chill in the air, but it was a bright, sunny day, with good cheer and the holiday spirit evident as volunteers helped decorate the Court House.
It wasn’t the decorating party that was held last year, but Christmas hasn’t been cancelled, just scaled back a little, says NOTL Chamber of Commerce president Eduardo Lafforgue.
McArthur says she has always loved Christmas, has always gone over the top with decorations, and is happy to have the opportunity to put her enthusiasm to work on Queen Street.
“I really enjoy doing this,” she says. “Especially with all that’s going on this year, it’s good to bring out the smiles.”
McArthur and her husband Blair used to come to Niagara-on-the-Lake to visit, and he proposed to her over dinner at the Oban Inn 38 years ago, “just before it burned down,” she says. “It was very, very romantic.”
They kept coming back, and talked about one day living here.
“We fell in love with NOTL, and we thought when we slowed down, we would move here, and that’s what we did.”
McArthur says they would always drive by the Romance Estate on John Street, and admire its beauty. “It was such an amazing house. I dreamed of living there, but I never thought it would happen.”
The McArthurs purchased the beautiful estate and moved to NOTL five years ago. “I feel I have to maintain it and keep it as beautiful as Trisha did, for her and for the community. We make it our duty to preserve it.”
She has also opened the house to the community, adding it as a special event of the Rotary Holiday House Tour, which has helped raise a substantial amount of money for the service club.
This year, with the tour cancelled, McArthur approached the club and offered to open the grounds of the estate, which are extensively decorated for the holiday, as a fundraising Enchanting Wonderland Stroll.
“I really wanted to do it for Rotary, for the community, and especially for the children.”
That will happen on two evenings in December, with the event quickly sold out.
McArthur is happy to help in the community in whatever way she can, and says she can’t imagine living anywhere else.“It’s such a feel-good place,” she says.
With McArthur and “her team” in charge of the Court House, Lafforgue says there will be decorations along the street as well, in collaboration with the Town and business owners.
The Town will install snowflakes throughout all of NOTL, as well as the traditional decorations in the Heritage District, including planters along Queen Street and King Street, and natural garland and lights on the heritage poles.
A Christmas tree will be placed at the Cenotaph, along with 18 trees lining both sides of Queen Street.
Last year, he says, a volunteer built a beautiful arbor for the entrance to Simcoe Park, and it will be installed and lit again this year.
Queen Street businesses are being encouraged to place natural garland, wreaths or swags with ribbons on their storefronts, says Lafforgue.
And although the Candlelight Stroll will be much quieter than other years, with a small ceremony at the Court House and residents asked to take part at home, “we are keeping the tradition alive.”
Candles are now for sale at local businesses, and residents are being asked to purchase them, with the money going to the Temporary Seasonal Agricultural Worker Health Program at Quest CHC, and The Migrant Workers Welcome Packages.
On Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. watch the ceremony live-streamed by Cogeco, and share in the moment “by lighting candles out front of your home,” says Lafforgue, and singing along to a few carols. The chamber is asking residents to post photos and videos on social media, #strollNOTL.