A Christmas tradition resumes in the Comox Valley this year, after a brief law-enforced interruption.
The much-loved Comox Valley Christmas Light Trucks will be driving through Comox Valley neighbourhoods this season, after coming to an agreement with Comox Valley RCMP.
The small convoy of trucks, led by a Strate Scapes Landscaping dump truck, drives through the residential areas of the Comox Valley, completely decked out in festive lighting. In addition to touring residential neighbourhoods, the convoy visits care homes, and other homes where people may be confined due to illness or disability, to spread Christmas cheer and to collect donations for charities.
The tradition, which began in 2013, was halted midway through the 2017 Christmas season, when Comox Valley RCMP issued a warning to two drivers, saying the Christmas lights violated the Motor Vehicle Act and could be distracting for drivers.
Erin Kaetler and her husband own Strate Scapes Landscaping 2012 Ltd., the company that started the neighbourhood tour. After the incident last year, Kaetler approached local councils with letters, asking to help them reach a compromise. Despite the effort, the RCMP stood firm on its decision.
Knowing that Insp. Tim Walton had been replaced over the summer, Kaetler called the Comox Valley RCMP detachment on Nov. 17 to see if an arrangement could be made to resume the tradition this year.
Her persistence paid off.
“I thought ‘I reached out once and it backfired but I’m going to try this again, because it’s a new fellow. I’m guessing they were probably pretty shocked and embarrassed about how bad it got last year, with the publicity. I don’t think they expected such a [backlash]. I was pretty certain [new detachment commander, Insp. Kurvers] would want things to be different.”
She was right.
“I just phoned and left Inspector Kurvers a voicemail, saying I was hoping to chat with him, and he called me back,” she said. “I have to give credit to Corporal Tori Cliffe. I guess as soon as Inspector Kurvers came in, one of the things they talked about was what had happened last Christmas, and the communication problem.”
“Inspector Kurvers and myself discussed things at length with Erin and we identified the areas with felt were of concern, and they’ve agreed to take those into consideration when they are out and about,” said Cliffe. “I think that alleviates any risk of the traffic safety aspect we were concerned with. So it will go ahead and I think it’s fantastic.
“As identified by Cpl. Matchett last year, safety concerns would be distracting other drivers while they are driving. Sixty per cent of all accidents do occur at intersections, so we desperately want to alleviate anything like that happening – take a great community event and having something not so great happen. But it’s been resolved and it’s going to be a great Christmas season in the Valley.”
The “season” officially kicks off at the Campbell River Truck Parade next Friday, followed by the Cumberland Truck Parade Saturday.
After that, the convoy starts touring the Comox Valley.
The schedule is posted daily on Comox Valley Christmas Lights Trucks Facebook page.
“We try to figure out every day where we want to go, then we post it. We will make a couple of appearances at the Crown Isle festivities, then head into the neighbourhoods.”
There is a fundraising angle to the tour as well. The drivers collect donations for the food bank as they cruise through the neighbourhoods. Simply listen for the horns, then meet them at the curb.
“Last year we had a whole enclosed trailer full of food in the back of a pick-up truck and a few hundred dollars,” said Kaetler. “People were really supportive.”
Kaetler said there were never any hard feelings from her family’s company regarding last year’s decision, but she is grateful to the RCMP for changing its position.
“We all respect the police and know they have a job to do,” she said. “Just because we don’t agree with a decision doesn’t mean it’s worthy of disrespect. I have a brother who is an RCMP officer, and we do respect what they do. We may not have agreed with their decision, and didn’t care for the way it was handled, but in the end, it’s all about keeping things respectful. We are just happy to have a new opportunity, with somebody else in charge, who has a different view of working with the community.”