A city bus covered in sparkling Christmas lights has begun its journey through the streets of Red Deer.
The fourth annual Santa’s Bus tour began on Friday, with a trip through North Red Deer neighbourhoods, including Pines, Johnstone Park and Kentwood.
There’s a process to decorating the bus each year, explained Annette Scheper, special events community and program facilitator with the City of Red Deer. The first step is to ensure all of the lights work.
“We plug them in to make sure they’re working, then I deliver them to the … civic yards and it takes our team about eight hours and 10 staff to fully install all of the lights on the bus,” Scheper said.
“It’s looking fantastic. This year our team was pretty excited about decorating – they like to do something new every year. I actually had to run out and buy more lights. This year I can honestly say it’s the ‘blingy-est’ bus we’ve had.”
The bus is covered in about 7,000 lights, Scheper estimated.
Santa’s Bus Tour is part of Red Deer Lights the Night, which is a month-long celebration of the holiday season that began on Nov. 17.
“Going through the neighbourhoods with Santa’s Bus Tour is probably the best part of our Red Deer Lights the Night events that we have going on,” said Scheper.
“Travelling to the neighbourhoods allows for an inclusive celebration with our citizens. If anybody can’t get down to a big event, at least they get to participate in the Santa bus. Some people go all out, they have signs for Santa and they’re cheering him on.
“To see the faces of the little ones with their big smiles when this bus comes rolling down and the music blaring, it’s something you hold dear to your heart. It’s just beautiful.”
Santa’s Bus Tour initially began during the COVID-19 pandemic, when public health restrictions prevented big gatherings.
“We still wanted to get everyone involved and it turned out people really liked it. We’re keeping it going,” said Scheper.
“I find the numbers are pretty steady each year, especially when we get to the east and west sides of Red Deer because we’ve got a lot of younger families living there. Even last year on days that were -30, we still had people outside waiting.”
Santa’s Bus Tour continues Saturday with a trip through South Red Deer (Bowers, West Park and Normandeau) and the downtown.
The tour will then return Friday, Dec. 15, by visiting Sunnybrook, Inglewood, Anders, Morrisroe, Eastview, Clearview Meadows, 55 Street, the downtown and Gaetz Avenue North.
The final tour date will be Saturday, Dec. 16 in East Red Deer (Vanier, Lancaster, Deer Park, Rosedale, Timberlands and Clearview Ridge.
Santa’s Bus Tour runs from 5:30-8 p.m. A full tour map can be found on www.reddeer.ca.