Red River Ex drive-thru show gets green light from new public health order

The show is going on for an annual winter drive-thru light show in Winnipeg that was briefly cancelled last month by strict new pandemic control measures shuttering non-essential businesses and services.

“We’re very excited,” said Garth Rogerson, CEO of the non-profit Red River Exhibition Association that puts on the Winter Wonderland show at Red River Exhibition Park on the city’s western edge, as the event welcomed its first visitors on Saturday.

“It was a long haul to get here, but we’re ready to go.”

While most of Manitoba’s COVID-19 rules are staying in place until Jan. 8, health officials said, the newest public health orders announced this week include exceptions for drive-in events.

Under the revised rules, people in those settings need to stay in their vehicles and are only allowed to have members of the same household in a car.

Rogerson said the pandemic led to some changes in the light show: there won’t be any washrooms or places for people to get out of their cars to take photos, for example.

The event usually also includes spots where people can warm up around fire pits, stop for a hot chocolate or some mini doughnuts, hit the skating rink or go for a sleigh ride — all of which has been removed because of the new rules.

The light show features more than a million lights in dozens of themed areas throughout the 2.5-kilometre route. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

But the display, which features more than a million lights in dozens of themed areas throughout the 2.5-kilometre route, will still be a way for people to safely enjoy a 21-year holiday tradition not barred by the pandemic, he said.

“It’s just a beautiful nighttime drive [where people can] enjoy the warmth of the season and all the lights,” Rogerson said.

Rogerson reminded people to stay in their car during the entire show, and to only come in a vehicle with people they live with.

“Help us out with that so that we all stay safe and the show can carry on,” he said.

The light show route, which people can travel while tuning into the park’s Christmas radio station, has wide areas to pull into for people who want to stop and take photos or admire the lights from inside their vehicles. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Rogerson said the route, which people can drive while tuning into the park’s Christmas radio station, has wide areas for cars to pull into if people want to stop and take photos or admire the lights from inside their vehicles.

“Take your time. Enjoy the show,” he said. 

The Winter Wonderland drive-thru light display is open daily from 6 to 10 p.m., and closed on Christmas Day. The show will run until Jan. 2, with tickets available online or at the gate, Rogerson said.

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