The Grinch stealing presents and running them down a ladder on Barrett Drive is featured in one of Jim Elliott’s favourite Christmas light displays.
You can trust it’s a holiday spectacle, since Elliott knows exactly what Red Deer has to offer in the way of sparkling seasonal yard decorations.
Every December for the past 15 years, the City of Red Deer worker and his son A.J. have driven “practically every street in Red Deer,” mapping out which have the most magical, lit-up homes.
It all started when Elliott decided to charter some buses to take disabled children and their parents on free Christmas light tours of the city, and it continued when he was guiding around clients of the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter.
While Elliott no longer rents buses, he continues to make his updated maps of Christmas light-festooned streets available to the public for self-guided tours. His routes are also used for a Kinsmen-sponsored accessible seniors bus tour that leaves the Golden Circle at 5 p.m. on Tuesday (call 403-343-6074 to register).
Elliott never had the chance to see many Christmas lights when he was a kid: “My parents were dirt poor farmers. We had no money. At Christmastime, my dad would go into the bush and cut down a tree and my mom would decorate it with popcorn, or whatever we could afford.”
With seven children to feed, his parents had little leftover money for the holidays.
After moving to Red Deer and getting a job with the city — where Elliott has worked in various capacities for more than four decades — he decided “enough of that. I wanted to do something special for others.”
Every year, Elliott throws a Christmas party for the kids, parents and staff of the Aspire Special Needs Resource Centre. He also tries to make a difference in the community at large.
The other day, Elliott witnessed a little boy pointing at Christmas merchandise and his father shaking his head, saying they had no money for it.
“I slipped a five dollar bill into the dad’s hand and he bought the boy an advent calendar. He was so excited.”
Elliott is gratified whenever somebody thanks him for providing the routes for a beautiful Christmas light tour.
This year, Inglewood, Vanier Woods and Lancaster were added to it. Because “people can handle only so much,” Elliott has broken the city’s three-hour tour into one-hour parts.
The brightest attractions are in more established neighbourhoods — including the perennial favourite, Ohio Close in Oriole Park, and the homes along Michener Green.
“Every single house is decorated, just like Candy Cane Lane in Edmonton,” said Elliott, who also admires this year’s expanded display along Cornett Drive in Clearview.
“It’s just beautiful. You can’t believe it.”