Janay McJannet

Janay McJannet

Armstrong comes together

Even though there was a Grinch-like theme, nobody stole Armstrong’s Christmas spirit Thursday.

Even though there was a Grinch-like theme, nobody stole Armstrong’s Christmas spirit Thursday.

And it may have been exactly what the community needed.

Rocked by tragedy over the past two months, including the unsolved murder of a teenager, Armstrong officials asked the community to come out and help celebrate life during the annual downtown lightup and tree lighting festival.

The theme for the evening was Whoville, inspired by the Dr. Seuss Christmas classic, How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

The crowd was estimated at more than 2,000.

“It was a spectacular turnout, we were really impressed with the turnout,” said Patti Noonan, executive director of the Armstrong Chamber of Commerce, which helped organize the event.

“Everybody was great, everybody came out and supported the community. I think it’s a sign of what our community is known for. We all come together when we have to.”

Community leaders and health officials encouraged residents to take part in the festival as a way of coping with the homicide of Taylor Van Diest, 18, who was attacked by an unknown male assailant Oct. 31, and died later that night in Kelowna Hospital.

Since Van Diest’s murder, the community has been on edge, taking extra safety precautions for activities such as walking a dog or going for a jog.

Mayor Chris Pieper was in the middle of the festival, taking part in the lightup festival parade.

From his vantage point, the event had the desired result on the community.

“I think it had a great effect,” said Pieper Friday morning.

“I was in the parade, got to see everybody, the amount of families that were out and the amount of smiles I saw was pretty encouraging.

“The smiles were the result of a lot of things. People wanted to come out and be part of the community.”

There was a significant RCMP presence throughout the festival, with officers helped out by auxiliary police members and Citizens On Patrol.

“The large RCMP presence created a comfort zone and confidence that we really needed last night,” said Pieper.