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Christmas in July comes to O’Leary for annual celebration

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P.E.I. Potato Blossom Festival organizers are getting into the Christmas spirit early this year.

“Christmas in July” is the theme of the 51st annual festival, to be held in O’Leary from July 15 to 21.

Long-time festival volunteer and participant Faye MacWilliams is in her second year as chairwoman of the festival committee. She said her committee is eager to build on the success of last year’s 50th anniversary milestone, and added she feels the Christmas theme will help them deliver.

The theme will have a particular shine to it during the festival parade, to be held on Saturday, July 20, she said, noting she’s anticipating floats adorned with Christmas lights and decorations and residents displaying festive cheer in their yards.

“And you never know where Santa could show up,” she said, suggesting Santa and one or more of his elves will likely be making appearances at festival events including the Friday night farmers banquet and the Saturday evening Summerside Chrysler Dodge adult singing contest, which she said has grown into a very popular and well-attended festival event.

Many of the featured events from previous years, including the Miss Potato Blossom Pageant, youth talent contest, Memorial Spud Run, Canadian Potato Peeling Championship, harness racing, P.E.I. Washer Toss championship and car show are all returning.

The children’s decorated trike, bike and doll carriage parade, which was brought back for the 50th anniversary celebration, is also continuing.

Helping with the co-ordination is the festival’s office manager Trish Child. She moved to the area from Ontario nearly two years ago and is finding the planning sessions a great opportunity to get to know the volunteers and her new community.

“I enjoy that sense of community-coming-together,” she said.

“The people involved are very passionate,” Child added.

A large committee of volunteers has been meeting regularly to plan the festival and MacWilliams is encouraged by their enthusiasm. Several organizations in the community help stage the festival and share in the festival’s proceeds.

“It brings a lot of people to town,” she said.

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