The 500,000 lights have gone dark and the village is quiet until May when the tourists will return.
But for the month of December and the first week of January Upper Canada Village near Morrisburg, Ontario, was aglow with lights and bristling with activity. Outside the village the train tour showed us even more lights and animatronic displays at Santa’s workshop. We enjoyed the train ride but we were happy to get into the village proper as it was a bit warmer. As we walked though, we had to watch out for the “road apples” left by the horses pulling the large tourist-filled wagons or smaller private coaches with couples snuggling under blankets. We’d been to Upper Canada Village before but not for many years. However, the village depicts life in the 1860s, so not much changes. Or so we thought. It all seemed magical under a shadowy moon and everything looked so different. Buildings were awash with “wall lights” that changed colour or were framed with tiny lights. The lights floated as the trees they adorned seemed to disappear.
Only a few buildings are open during the winter festival and being true to their origin have no central heating. Staff was warm and friendly in spite of the fact they were bundled up but probably feeling the cold as much as we were. They were likely envious of the baker who had the comfort of the wood-fired oven as he made copious loaves of bread and pans of cinnamon buns, which were scooped up quickly in the outdoor food court.
We’d been encouraged to see the Gingerbread House display at Chrysler Hall. These were not your ordinary gingerbread houses; they were works of art. I’ve made a gingerbread house only once because of the work involved and mine was a very simple house with some candy decorations. I cannot fathom the effort—and patience—that went into these creations. The Grand Prize winner was a large house complete with piano, fireplace, bookshelves (with books) and other furnishings. We were dumbstruck by the detail inside and out.
Equally awesome was the imagination and detail displayed and the work involved for all entries. My favourite was the carousel, which evoked a summer fair that might come to the village.
We expected to be at the festival for about two hours and wound up staying close to four. That included breaks for dinner and those cinammon buns, but most of the time was spent touring the village to see the displays including a light show in time to music and some carolling at Christ Church.
We might go back for the 12th annual Alight at Night Festival and may even get back to the Village in the summer now that we’ve seen everything in a whole new light.