Festive Fun for the Family
Crown Isle Resort scores a ‘hole in one’ with their Christmas celebrations
The drive up the hill to the Crown Isle Golf Club is always quite magical—with the trees adorned with white lights in the fall and winter and a riot of colorful flowers in the spring and summer. But for Christmas 2015, the crew at Crown Isle took the magic to a whole new level. With the support of their staff and more than 30 volunteers, the area around the clubhouse was transformed into a winter wonderland as they staged the First Annual Christmas at Crown Isle Resort Walk, in conjunction with the ever-popular 14th annual Gingerbread Village and Teddy Bear Basket exhibit and silent auction.
Despite a rainy and slow start, by the time the 2015 event wrapped up, the month-long Christmas extravaganza had attracted more than 6,000 visitors and generated more than $12,500 for local charities. Based on the Resort Walk’s success, and fueled by the excitement of the community, Crown Isle Resort plans to make this year’s Resort Walk and Gingerbread Village even better. With more lights, more activities and a bigger and better line-up of displays, Crown Isle expects that this will become the premier family-friendly community Christmas event in the Comox Valley. Given good weather, they hope that attendance numbers will double, which will also significantly increase the amount raised to support local non-profits.
According to Jason Andrew, Director of Real Estate at Crown Isle, the idea for the Christmas Resort Walk started rather modestly, with a few lights and decorations being set up outside of the clubhouse. Then it morphed into a full-blown festive affair that was generously supported not only by the public, but many local businesses, such as Quality Foods, the Comox Valley Record, the Echo, The Eagle Radio, The Goat Radio, and more.
“Why do we do this? Because we want people to think ‘family’ when they think of Crown Isle Resort,” says Andrew. “So, we welcome the community with an affordable and fun event. We want people to recognize that Crown Isle Resort is not just a venue for corporate and golf-related activities.”
Andrews explains that the Crown Isle Christmas experience starts as people drive up the hill past thousands of sparkling Christmas lights. For just the cost of a can of food to donate to the Comox Valley Food Bank, visitors can expect to be welcomed by a greeter, directed to park, and then encouraged to meander around the exterior of the clubhouse to see all of the different displays as Christmas music fills the air.
“Construction of the outdoor displays is a combination of the Crown Isle team, including the maintenance crew and resort staff, and volunteers who are golf members and Crown Isle community residents,” explains Crown Isle’s Director of Food and Beverages, Nikki Hockley. “They love being involved and this event simply wouldn’t happen without their participation.”
Crown Isle residents and Golf Club members Eveline and Roger Shaw had fun helping with the decorating at last year’s Resort Walk and plan to volunteer again this year.
“Normally we go south in the wintertime,” says Eveline, “but last year we stayed in the Valley. I was bored silly, and I needed something to do. Contributing to the production of the Christmas at Crown Isle Resort Walk was something that Roger and I both thought was worthwhile because the event was in support of local charities and it was a good way for Crown Isle to open their doors to welcome the community.”
Her husband agrees. “Crown Isle Resort is a beautiful complex and a fabulous place for people to be able to go to have some fun during the holiday season,” Roger adds. “There is so much for children to see and do, and they have a blast running around and taking it all in. It was rewarding to hear comments from people about how nice it was to have a low-cost event to participate in with their families.”
For several weeks, staff and volunteers painstakingly created and installed the Resort Walk displays. There are lots of larger than life plywood cutouts, ranging from the Grinch to the Abominable Snowman, and tens of thousands of Christmas lights. Themed activity stations include a kid’s village, candy cane lane, Santa’s workshop, elf lane, plus a kid’s holiday cinema with Christmas movies playing non-stop. There will be several fire barrels burning through the property, to warm fingers and toes, as well as a S’mores station, hot chocolate and other goodies to fuel hungry tummies. Santa, of course, is also in attendance, and he sets up in the beautiful white gazebo.
The Christmas Tree Trail is a new addition this year that is sure to be a crowd pleaser—and a good money generator that will further support the four chosen charities. Crown Isle provides the trees, tree stands and signage, and community residents and businesses are invited to purchase the sponsorship of a tree for $100 and then decorate it for all to enjoy. Visitors will vote for their favorite tree and the People’s Choice winner will receive an exclusive golf and accommodation package at Crown Isle.
When kids (and adults) have burned off their energy exploring the outdoor festivities they are welcome to head inside the Crown Isle Clubhouse to marvel at a display of close to 100 gingerbread creations and ingenious teddy bear baskets.
Mary Ruth Harris has played a key role in organizing the Annual Gingerbread Village and Teddy Bear Basket exhibit for several years. She explains that it was started by a group of volunteers and was designed to be both a fundraiser and an opportunity for community engagement. The founding and title sponsor was the Courtenay office of Odlum Brown Investments.
Due to its ever-increasing size and scope, this exhibit has been hosted at several locations over the past 14 years, including the Comox Centre Mall, the Filberg Lodge, the Old House Hotel, the Courtenay Museum and Crown Isle. While Odlum Brown has withdrawn their sponsorship to focus on other community projects, Crown Isle has stepped up to host the event going forward, and the focus remains the same. There are three categories for the gingerbread building and one for teddy bears. Exhibitors pay an entry fee (that goes to charity), and the displays are sold to the highest bidder through a silent auction. Both businesses and individuals are welcome to participate to compete for the coveted People’s Choice Award and prize ribbons. Entries will be accepted November 25th through 27th between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm.
While the ratio of gingerbread creations and teddy bear entries varies each year, Crown Isle guarantees that visitors will be amazed at the originality of all of the entries.
“When you think of Teddy Bear Baskets, think big,” Harris says with a laugh. “These are not your average bears or your average baskets! There is no limit to the creativity and imagination in the Comox Valley. One year, for example, there was a full-size swing set with three life-sized teddy bears. It was hysterical. Another year, Home Depot had a giant bear wearing a tool belt filled with tools. The silent auction bid winners get to take home the whole package.”
The gingerbread creations are no less spectacular. From Kit Kats to Jube-Jubes, gingerbread to Graham crackers, anything goes as far as ‘construction materials’ on each two-foot-square display space. Last year Crown Isle Resort’s chef made a replica of the clubhouse. Expect to see other local landmarks, Nativity scenes, Santa’s workshops, cartoon characters, and more.
Last year, cash donations at the door, entry fees and the silent auction raised $12,500, which was equally divided between four local charities. This year, non-profits that will benefit from Resort Walk fundraising will include the Comox Valley Food Bank, the Boys and Girls Club of Central Vancouver Islands, Dawn-to-Dawn Action on Homelessness Society, and the Comox Valley Transition Society.
Kelly Barnie, Director of Marketing for the Boys and Girls Club, says that third-party fundraising events like this are important to nonprofit organizations because the money raised is unrestricted. (As compared to grant or gaming money that must be directed to specified programs.)
“This fundraising gives us the option of putting the money toward an existing out-of-school care, parenting education, or other support program as we see fit,” says Barnie. “Or, we can use it as seed money to launch new programs that meet specific needs in this community. It is always great when we can focus on our core role of program delivery, not fundraising. Since the gingerbread village and teddy bear basket event started in 2001, the Boys and Girls Clubs alone have been privileged to receive over $75,000, which represents only a portion of the total amount of money generated in the past 14 years.”
Entry to this year’s Resort Walk will again be by food donation to the Comox Valley Food Bank, or a cash donation for Dawn to Dawn, the Transition Society or the Boys and Girls Club. “We were grateful to receive several truckloads of food donations from last year’s Crown Isle Resort Walk,” says Comox Valley Food Bank Society President Jeff Hampton. “It was an unexpected but very welcome surprise at a time of year when many people rely heavily on our services. We look forward to once again being the recipient of the generosity of the people of the Comox Valley, to help us provide for over 1,200 individuals who rely on the Food Bank each month, not just at Christmastime.”
Visit the Crown Isle Gingerbread Village and Teddy Bear Basket displays seven days a week from November 28 through December 17 from 9:00 am-9:00 pm.
Enjoy the Resort Walk and Community Tree Trail December 2-4 and 9-11 and then daily from December 16 through 23, from 5:00 to 9:00 pm. All events at the venue are wheelchair and stroller accessible.
For more information visit www.CrownIsle.com/holiday-resort-walk