What happens when locals get together and decide to make their town as big of a draw in wintertime as it is in summer? That’s what happened in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue recently when business owners and residents formed a committee to make the village as popular in the cold months as it is in the warmer ones.

“A year ago, my husband and I looked at the village and thought ‘how can we make it nice in wintertime?’’ said Jenn Pragai of Pragai Couture, which is situated along the main street, Rue Ste. Anne. “Visually, in summer, it looks nice and vibrant, and in winter it’s still a functional village but there’s a handful of restaurants that close for winter, so we wondered, how we can make this place look better?”

So Pragai, her husband Dwayne Baker, professional designer Tammy Skjenna, media expert Tracey McKee and a team of locals decided to decorate Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue village and turn it into a winter wonderland. Christmas trees topped with hats line the entire street, and there are also three community Christmas trees where people can bring their own ornaments to decorate. At the local park, a cabana has been constructed and Adirondack chairs have been set up to encourage people to come out and spend some time there.

“The initial idea was to decorate for the holidays, but we have a woman in the area who decided to come up with an original story about elves coming to Ste-Anne’s who want be adopted by children and loved. It’s a beautiful story that will be featured in the town, and we will have an elf adoption in our own store where kids can come and adopt an elf,” Pragai explained, adding that Elf adoption donations will help fund the beautification project. “There will also be an elf hunt that is linked to the story.”

Beginning on December 7, participating merchants will have a little sign and, if you go inside, you’ll have to find the elf. When you do, you’ll get a little prize. “It’s like trick-or-treating. Families can go from one end of Ste. Anne’s to the other, and it will get people to come and walk through and experience the beauty of it.

“This is not just about going and spending money here,” Pragai said. “It’s more about coming to enjoy and experience winter as much as you do in the summer. You can spend the whole afternoon here. Everyone in the community is working and giving their time and effort, and it’s putting a lot of smiles on peoples’ faces. It has turned into a real community project. What started as a tiny purpose has blown up into this amazing thing with a lot of creative minds helping out.”

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