Edmonton mayor responds to large tree backlash

Downtown Edmonton will look a little different during the holidays this year.

Not only is the annual Downtown Holiday Light Up on Dec. 3, put on by the Downtown Business Association, moving to Rice Howard Way, but for the first time in about two decades, a large tree will not be put up in Churchill Square.

A spokesperson from the City of Edmonton said Tuesday in an email: “While the City won’t be installing a tree, we are working to provide some free, family-friendly seasonal activities in Churchill Square.”

Edmonton’s mayor took to Twitter on Wednesday to respond to backlash over the decision and recent media coverage.

He spoke in rhyme, as CTV News Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson did when he first reported the story on Tuesday.

“There won’t be a tree in Churchill Square, but that doesn’t mean the mayor and council doesn’t care,” Sohi recited.

“The DBA is lighting up downtown on Rice Howard Way this time around. This is their project and they’re taking the lead. This Christmas, they will have just what you need. Everyone’s holiday traditions are great, no matter what they are. I love to celebrate!

“For years and years, we all loved the big tree, but there’s so much more that Christmas can be.”

He also suggested coverage of the cancellation was “for the comments and the clicks and the views” and reminded the public it “is so important for all of us to be kind.”

In 2020, the light-up included a 77-foot tree with 22,000 LED lights. Last year, the tree was 65 feet tall with more than 14,000 lights.

This year’s event on Rice Howard Way will feature never-seen-before art installations and experiences by local artists and businesses, the DBA told CTV News Edmonton.

“The spirit of Downtown Holiday Light Up has always been about celebrating together and creating special downtown memories,” executive director Puneeta McBryan wrote in a news release.

The DBA, which operates the Holiday Light up in partnership with the City of Edmonton, said the event is being moved to Rice Howard Way this year to help restaurants and retailers in that area still recovering from challenges over the past few years.

“It’s a great example of downtown businesses coming together to create a stronger community for everyone and bring more vibrancy to the area,” McBryan said.

The theme for this year’s event is “The North” and will feature a life-sized illuminated polar bear, LED-lit iceberg and festive 10-metre-wide light wall. There will also be lantern-making workshops, a market, live music and indigenous performances, games and giveaways.

Free parking will be available in the Edmonton City Center East Parkade from 10 am until 8 pm

A complete schedule of events can be found here.

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