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LEE A. WOOD
Can you recall the last time you entered an area and were greeted by a sign that said, `Goats may eat your stroller. Leave all strollers, etc. in this area'. I backed up. Yes, I had read the sign correctly.
The goats have read the sign too. As I tried to enter the second gate an African Pygmy Goat tried to get to the stroller parking lot. I put up my foot to block his egress, while I secured the gate, he attempted to eat my shoe lace.
As I quickly drew back my foot I thought, maybe I should let him have it, it is the season of giving and the reason I was in the `Children's Farm Yard'.
The Christmas Season and the festive decorations are not just in the Farm Yard. Beneath the bridge to the entrance is an Alpine village, complete with a working gondola, crossing above the roaring waters of a miniature chasm.
Behind me, on the other side of the `Plaza', the Stanley Park Miniature Train had just taken me on a joyous ride through a colourful world of Christmas lights. Drummers stood guard at the entrance to bridges; toy soldiers formed an honour guard for the train; angels lit the entrances to gaily lit tunnels; Santa greeted his helper behind the throttle of the train; live swans glided silently across a pond beneath a railway trestle.
The Miniature Train and the Farm Yard have thrilled visitors to Vancouver's Stanley Park for nearly twenty years. What's different the last two seasons is the decorations in the Plaza, and the fact that they are now under the auspices of the `B. C. Professional Fire Fighters' Burn Fund'.
Several years ago Bob Wingfield and Marg Barrett of Surrey, B. C., like many other people in many other towns, began to put up Christmas lights on their front lawn. Over the years their presentation grew and the local Fire Fighters began to pitch in to help erect the displays.
Visitors would often ask if they could give donations and Bob and Marg would tell them to give to the Fire Fighters.
There are over 43 towns in B. C. that have fire halls that belong to the B. C. Professional Fire Fighters and most of them contribute to the `Burn Fund'.
In the last nine years the Christmas display in Bob and Marg's front yard raised over half a million dollars for the burn unit at the Vancouver General Hospital.
The `Burn Fund', formed in 1976 raises money for `survivor support', the Burn Units at the Vancouver General, Prince George Regional, and the Vancouver Children's Hospitals, as well as a summer camp near Squamish, B. C.
In 1997 the Burn Fund bought the Christmas displays from Bob and Marg who wished to retire, and moved them to Stanley Park.
The decorations that used to be set up by the Park's Board in the Plaza have now been added to those along the right-of-way of the Miniature Train that meanders through the forest.
There is a small charge to ride the train or visit the Farm Yard but the Plaza is open to the public. Donations can be left at the booths located at either entrance or can be given to any of the Fire Fighters. Last year over one hundred thousand dollars was raised for the `Burn Fund'.
The Burn Fund provides: financial assistance and specialized equipment for burn survivors; training of medical staff and specialized equipment for hospitals; support for the pediatric burn unit at the B. C. Children's Hospital; and a summer camp for young burn survivors.
The summer camp was started in `94 for burn survivors aged five to eighteen. The camp has grown over the years from eighteen campers in its first year to fifty-five in `99.
The goal this year, for the B. C. Professional Fire Fighters' Burn Unit, is to complete the raising of one million dollars which was pledged, about four years ago, to the burn unit at the Vancouver General Hospital.
The lights throughout; the Miniature Train ride, the Beluga Whale display at the Aquarium, and the Children's Farm Yard, collectively known as `Bright Nights in Stanley Park' was open during the `99 Christmas Season, from 3 PM to 10 PM Nov. 26 to Jan. 3 (Closed Xmas Day and New Years Eve.)
The `brightness' is a collection of over two miles of extension cords powering more than ten miles of lights.
As you enter `Winter Wonderland' you are greeted by a large Santa who stands above a train set in Santa's yard at the North Pole. In the background Santa's elves are busy in the workshop. This display, Santa's Workshop, was donated to the Fire Fighters by the Vancouver Downtown Business Improvement Association.
Gaily lit walkways meander though candy cane lanes of angels, trees, and gingerbread men.
A Polar Lee sticks his nose out of an Igloo, how he got in there I don't know. Christmas Carols waft through the air. As I was there on opening night the Christmas music came from the Fire Fighters Brass Band on the far side of the plaza. Young reindeer, student volunteers with antlers on their heads, wander about to give directions and assistance.
New lights and displays have been donated by companies and erected by Fire Fighter volunteers. Over four thousand man hours by more than five hundred Fire Fighters. Two hundred civilians, (who speak over twenty different languages) many of whom were nurses, assisted in the operation of this years displays.
But the work didn't start there, nor did it stop there. Hundreds of hours of donated time were required to call on companies to ask for the donations, many hours were required to man the displays during the Christmas season, and hundreds of hours were required to take the lights down at the end of the season.
The Fire Fighters don't ask you to work, they only ask that you come and enjoy. Stroll the lanes of lights, ride the train, visit the Belugas, and the Farm Yard, but leave your strollers, etc. in the stroller parking area.
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RELATED WEB SITES
Fire Fighters' Burn Fund
Bright Nights in Stanley Park
(Includes Volunteer Information)
Fire Fighting in Canada
VANCOUVER PARK BOARD
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