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Niagara Falls
Tuesday, February 27, 2024
PHOTO GALLERY: Candlelight Stroll shines bright despite rain and cold
Twelve-year-old Maya Webster chats up a couple friends minutes before climbing into her carriage. EVAN LOREE
Tina De Luca with her sons Jake De Luca-Cornish, left, and Charlie De Luca-Cornish. EVAN LOREE
The Webster family aboard a horse drawn carriage for the Candlelight Stroll. From left, dad Jeff, daughter Maya Webster, mom Christi Webster and sister Avery. EVAN LOREE
Six-year-old Fiona Jaramillo watches the town crier herald the town with her family. EVAN LOREE
Peter Boxall, dressed as Santa Claus on the right, with Mrs. Claus, also known as Cheryl Etherington.
Kat Forbes with husband Brandon Poirier return to Niagara-on-the-Lake every year for the Candlelight Stroll. EVAN LOREE
Kassandra Stuart with her children, four-year-old Ellie, left, three-year-old Isaac and baby Lincoln.
From left, Matt Dietsch with son Dylan and his son's friend John Dixon. EVAN LOREE
Eddie Urquhart with his four-year-old daughter Katherine on his shoulders. EVAN LOREE
Dylan Dietsch, left, with Maya Webster at the end of the Candlelight stroll. EVAN LOREE
Alana Hurov and Eddie Urquhart have their candles lit by Mrs. Claus. EVAN LOREE
Deborah Whitehouse sings alongside the Salvation Army Brass Band before the walk begins. EVAN LOREE
NOTL Chamber of Commerce president Minerva Ward speaks to the crowd. The chamber organizes the annual stroll. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
Carollers entertain strollers along Prideaux Street. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
The Lincoln and Welland Regiment Band draws a crowd. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
The Niagara United Mennonite Church Choir entertains at Johnson and Gate streets along the route of the Candlelight Stroll. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
Dylan's father Matt Dietsch addresses the crowd at the Candlelight Stroll. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
Proceeds from sales of candles at the annual stroll will be shared by the families of Dylan Dietsch and Maya Webster. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
The Dietsch family helped lead the stroll, from left, Matt Dietsch, Dylan Dietsch and his friend John Dixon, along with Dylan's mom Kristen and his brother Colton. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
With Santa, MPP Wayne Gates, Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa and other dignitaries looking on, Maya Webster speaks to the crowd. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
The Candlelight Stroll crowd Friday night was smaller than most years, but still attracted a lot of NOTL residents and visitors from across Niagara and beyond. DAVE VAN DE LAAR
Maggie Boorman, 8, is all aglow at Friday's Candlelight Stroll. DAVE VAN DE LAAR

Thousands of candles cast tiny shadows across Old Town Friday night. 

As 12-year-old Maya Webster was inside the Court House chatting up the who’s who of Niagara-on-the-Lake, a crowd of locals and visitors alike were gathering outside, preparing for the Candlelight Stroll.

And while the Dietsch family, with their 13-year-old son Dylan, were giving a TV interview, the Salvation Army Brass Band was playing Christmas music on the Court House steps, with Deborah Whitehouse providing the vocals.

The crowd was a low hum.

Minerva Ward, the president of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event, said she was a little disappointed by the rain and cold, which kept many people at home this year.

In 2022, almost 6,300 people came out, substantially more than the 2,500 a chamber spokesperson estimated turned out this year.

Still, Dylan and Maya, the recipients of the money raised by this year’s stroll, are each receiving more than $2,800 from sale of candles.

Maya said she was excited but also a little nervous, though this was not the first time she had spoken to a crowd about juvenile diabetes.

Maya has been advocating for research into juvenile diabetes since she was almost seven.

“I’m very proud of her,” said her dad Jeff Webster.

He told The Lake Report that his daughter began her journey as a diabetic when she was two and he never expected she would have the opportunities she’s had. 

“It’s like anything. Over the years, it’s become just part of your day-to-day life,” Webster said. 

Dylan, who lives with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, was joined inside the Court House by his brother, parents and a friend, John Dixon. 

The family is planning to use their share of the stroll funds to install a lift in their house to help Dylan get up and down the stairs.

Dad Matt Dietsch said they gave their son the day off school so he could save his energy for the stroll. 

Dylan said he felt “good” about having the day off, while smiling at his friends and family.

He and John Dixon have been friends for about four years and John said it was “just fun to be around” Dylan.

Andrew Niven, who chairs the board of the Chamber of Commerce, said the annual stroll was one of his favourite events.

“It really defines what community is,” he said when the leaders of the stroll walk down the Court House steps and light the first of thousands of candles. 

Lord Mayor Mayor Gary Zalepa said it was the “authenticity” of the Candlelight Stroll that lit his candle. 

Zalepa said he’s known the Dietsch family for a long time and was inspired by Dylan’s grandfather Michael Dietsch, who served as lord mayor in the 1990s.

Tony Baldinelli, NOTL’s member of Parliament, was also there.

“Dylan speaks to me directly,” Baldinelli said, because his son Daniel was born premature and had to spend 136 days in hospital recovering.

Knowing the money from the event is helping to support Dylan was, in Baldinelli’s words, “fabulous.”

Meanwhile, Kassandra Stuart from Stevensville was outside with her three children Ellie, Isaac and Lincoln.

Stuart said she has attended the annual stroll for about four years.

“I like the carolling, the gathering of everybody. And it’s beautiful,” she said.

As her children, four-year-old Ellie and three-year-old Isaac, smiled in unison over the thought of opening gifts on Christmas day, Stuart said it was their joy that she loved the most about Christmas.

Six-year-old Fiona Jaramillo was at the head of the crowd with her parents during the speeches, catching a glimpse of the mysterious Santa Claus as he helped to light candles.

Four-year-old Katherine Urquhart was awfully fond of her cat-eared hat while she sat perched atop dad Eddie Urquhart’s shoulders.

She, too, had a view of the action as the first candles were lit.

On their evening stroll, Brandon Poirier and Kat Forbes took a moment to listen to one of the performing bands.

The couple told The Lake Report they come to Niagara-on-the-Lake every year for their anniversary and stay at the Pillar and Post, where they were married.

They said they just enjoy being together for Christmas.

“She kinda saved Christmas for me a long time ago,” Poirier said, smiling at his wife.

Forbes said there is something magical about the town and the time of year that brings them back every year.

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