It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Virden.
This year, the town will be decking the halls with holiday festivities during A Very Virden Christmas, said Virden Boost Committee chair Tiffany Cameron.
“I think that this is really just a story of a community coming out of COVID and trying to revitalize a little bit and working together. I was just so happy so many businesses came on board to support it,” Cameron said. “It’s working together to come out of this a little bit better.”
For the past few years, Christmas activities in Virden had been on the decline, Cameron said, and came to a complete stop during the COVID-19 shutdowns.
The Virden Boost Committee saw there was a need to work together to bring back the festive feeling to the town, no matter what adversity they encountered.
“We knew that might not be the easiest job in front of us because we didn’t know what restrictions would be,” Cameron said.
Rather than plan a handful of big and new Christmas-themed activities, they opted to set aside a budget through the Town of Virden and partner with Valley View Co-op and Sunrise Credit Union to create a pool of funds to promote A Very Virden Christmas.
Discussions for the event began in late 2020, but the plans were snuffed out after public health measures came down in March 2021. It was a time of uncertainty, she said.
“Every time we tried to get this going something happened so that we couldn’t.”
The group was eventually able to officially begin planning in late September and hit the ground running.
They were motivated to bring some magic to Virden and recover the sense of community that was lost when COVID-19 brought in-person events to a grinding halt. During the darkest moments of the pandemic, community members lost the ability to connect as a community, and one could feel the effects immediately.
But the group has been able to bring people back together and support local businesses.
“It’s the fullest form of economic development we could have come up with … it just needed that rejuvenation.”
It’s also helping facilitate collaborations between different partners that do not normally get the chance to interact. Cameron cited a local church toying with the idea of hosting a community Christmas party, which in turn led to connections with local businesses.
“That was my first time working in Virden that we had clergy come out and be part of something that the business community is doing. It was really neat to see those types of connections growing, and we can only build on it.”
To plan for A Very Virden Christmas, they first met as a committee and then invited every community group they could think of that hosts events during the holidays into the fold.
“It helped to kick-start some things and get some ideas flowing,” Cameron said. “The beautiful part about the project is now that we’ve taken that step forward, we have other things coming on board.”
These collaborations led to a rich selection of ideas and a strongly bound group of volunteers and organizations working together to bring holiday events to Virden. These partnerships were able to get the ball rolling on a number of different events in the community.
“It really got the creative juices flowing again.”
Supporting local businesses lies at the heart of the campaign. Cameron said the ultimate goal is to kick-start the economy while bringing back the Christmas spirit to the Virden area.
“It’s something we can grow year over year. We can try and get new Christmas decorations for next year,” Cameron said. “It’s getting attention and it’s getting more people working together, the businesses talking to each other,” Cameron said.
Students from the local high school have even volunteered to help run a community breakfast featuring Santa.
“I’m a business owner that employs a lot of local young people, so building those connections and showcasing how great our young people are is really important to me,” Cameron said.
She noted Virden will not be having a Christmas parade this year due to COVID-19 public health regulations, but other plans are in the works to celebrate the season.
In its place, A Very Virden Christmas has opted to host a decorating contest and a separate contest for local businesses. The committee is hoping to see the business decorating contest, dubbed the Christmas Cup, take root in the community and become a treasured title shops can brag about.
She added while the event is focused on supporting the local community, organizers are also hoping the different festivities will inspire those from Westman to come out and spend the day in Virden.
“People can come in for some late-night shopping, have a meal in town, look at the lights and make a day out of Virden ... [and] enjoy the rural setting and Christmas.”
For more information on A Very Virden Christmas, visit the group’s Facebook page. Upcoming events include a pop-up Christmas market running until Dec. 22, late-night shopping until Dec. 23 and the Art Mosaic Christmas Market until Dec. 22.
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun