People were in a festive mood Friday night.
The Downtown Old Fashioned Christmas walk attracted near pre-pandemic numbers with families, friends, dignitaries and of course the man of the hour, Santa Claus, gathering at the parkette across from the CIBC for the traditional tree lighting ceremony.
Children scrambled to get their picture taken with the jolly old man himself, as a choir filled the air with Christmas carols.
Allie Hunt last attended the walk just prior to COVID.
“It feels good to be back and it is really nice to see everybody here. It is so busy. I’ve got an eight-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old daughter here, and they’re loving it. There have been pictures with Santa and my oldest is off doing things with her friends.”
And like most people Hunt was grateful, the weather cooperated.
“It is not freezing cold, as it has been in past years, which is a good thing,” Hunt laughed.
While the temperature may not have been frigid, there were still trace amounts of snow from last weekend’s storm adding to the ambiance.
Businesses kept handing out hot chocolate, cookies, and candy canes while the sound of happy reunions, laughter, and live music filled the street.
Surprisingly, despite the lack of significant snow accumulation, at the other end of Main Street, Cheapskates was able to put together its traditional Rail Jam where young skiers and snowboarders delighted the crowd with a series of jumps, twists, and turns. The crowd “oohed” and “aahed” in response.
Throughout the night there was a long lineup of adults and children eagerly waiting for their turn to go up in the North Bay Hydro bucket, to get a bird’s eye view of Main Street.
Down below in the crowd having her picture taken with some of the youngsters was Nathalie Restoule from Dokis First Nation.
It was hard not to miss Restoule who was wearing the beautiful crown and sash she received after being crowned Ms. Regional Canada at the recent Mrs. Ms. Regional Canada Empowerment Pageant.
“This is actually my first year here and it is just so beautiful to see the community come together and that is really what I love to be a part of,” said Restoule.
“I just love the joy and the happiness this time of year brings. It is so nice to come together after COVID. It has been hard being without our families, so it is nice to come together and sing and meet new people and just get that sense of community again.”
One of the service organizations busy supporting the community was the Rotary Club of North Bay.
Once again this year, they volunteered their time to oversee the always-busy marshmallow roasting activity.
Rotarian Jeff Celentano explains what it was like having the walk back.
“The ability to be together again for a celebration of any sort is absolutely fantastic. We couldn’t have had better weather to bring out the parents and their children,” Celentano noted.
“There are lots of folks out on the street. A lot of folks came to visit us at the marshmallow pit which we’re doing in cooperation with YMCA North Bay this year. It is just absolutely fabulous. We’re thrilled to be here, and I think people are really happy, and getting into the Christmas spirit in a big way.”
The walk, organized by Downtown North Bay & Waterfront, marks the unofficial start to downtown Christmas shopping as most merchants stayed open late to give shoppers the opportunity to make purchases or get great gift-giving ideas.
During COVID the walk was cancelled in keeping with protocols, but the spirit of the event was kept alive with a virtual tree lighting ceremony.