This Town Shines

November 8, 2022

There’s a town in southwestern Ontario that continues to shine, even after a long two years of challenges.

Dresden Shines, formed in 2020, is a group of active community members who came together after the community of Chatham-Kent broke the world record for the largest food drive on May 16, 2020. (LINK)

2021 Dresden Shines volunteers detangling garland used to decorate downtown.

“It was that event that really brought the town together,” said Stuart Kiar, a local business owner and founding member of Dresden Shines. “Before the May 16th Miracle, there were a few partnerships between some community groups on revitalization projects, but at the height of the pandemic when we all wanted to chip in somehow. This food drive brought us together.”

Stuart says after the food drive, he and a few others were tossing around some ideas about how they could use that new momentum and energy into something positive for the holiday season.

“With the number of restrictions on large events at the time, the Dresden Night Market was placed on pause, so we decided to engage all the groups in town to come up with activities that could be enjoyed in small groups by all ages,” Stuart said.

Volunteers stand with a custom-made star that was on display downtown in 2021.

The idea was to animate the whole town with lights and decorations that could be seen and enjoyed from the comfort of a vehicle, or in small groups walking throughout the town. 

Planning began that summer and Dresden Shines was born.

“So many service clubs and groups jumped on board right away,” said Liz Kominek, one of the founding members. “Our first meeting was well attended. We had representatives from the local library, Kinsmen Club, Rotary, school groups, Business Improvement Association, IODE, Dresden and District Horticultural Society, churches, and so many more.”

Lori from the Dresden Sidestreets Youth Centre decorates the front window every season. Stores and community groups were encouraged to decorate their storefronts for the holiday season.

Each group was responsible for lighting or animating a part of the town. Some of the activities included light installations at schools and businesses, a neighbourhood decorating challenge, an illumination tour, and decorating full and empty storefronts. 

Food drives and outreach initiatives to seniors and migrant workers were also taken on by other community groups. Existing holiday events and activities that were able to operate through the restrictions were included in the festivities as well.

Two years later, Dresden Shines, along with many groups across town, continues to focus on lights and decorations throughout the holiday season. Its success has earned Dresden a new name: Christmas Town.

Each year, volunteers come together to put a Christmas tree up in downtown Dresden. Last year, the tree was donated by a local family covered in smart lights. This year, Dresden Shines and the Dresden Night Market purchased a brand new tree installation to be used year after year.

“Now that restrictions are lifted and events have returned, we were trying to think of ways to promote everything happening all at once, especially since our festive activities have become a destination for families near and far. That’s when one of our volunteers, Tyler Ouellette, suggested that we call ourselves Christmas Town,” explains Rose Northcott, President of the Dresden Rotary Club and Dresden Shines committee member.

Becoming Christmas Town takes a lot of work and support from volunteers and small businesses. Thousands of volunteer hours are spent on lighting up and decorating as much of Dresden as possible, from individual houses to downtown businesses, the entire town hall, and more. But it can’t be done without sponsors.

Signage is added across town to let residents and visitors know that all the holiday festivities are in full swing.

“We’re so thankful for all the sponsors we’ve had over the years, thanks to the hard work of Patti Irwin who is an amazing fundraiser,” says Cindy Brewer who is also part of the Dresden Shines committee. “This year, TekSavvy claimed the title sponsorship, so they’ll be presenting Christmas Town during the 2022 holiday season. We’ve also had support from My Main Street last year which really helped us to amp up the quality of our decorations.”

Christmas Town festivities kick off on November 12th with a decorating blitz, followed by Merry & Bright Thursday Night shopping events every Thursday, the Dresden Christmas Night Market on November 26th and other events like the Kinsmen Santa Claus Parade, the library’s storybook trail, and lots more.

A view of the annual Dresden Christmas Night Market which was created in 2017 by a small group of friends. The event is still organized by this same small group of volunteers today.

Visit for a full list of events throughout the holiday season.