Conversation Piece: Christmas at Bob’s

The elaborate Christmas light display has become a longstanding holiday tradition for many families.

Call it the Christmas conundrum; we love the time off, the time together, and the food, memories and presents, but the stress of making it all happen can outweigh the joy of the event itself. With all the work leading up to Santa’s visit, the end of the big day often feels more like relief than celebration. In the midst of all the seasonal chaos, how can we stop and see the light?

One way is to see the literal light at Christmas at Bob’s (7421 108 St), Bob Fedina’s dazzling display that’s as good as any in Edmonton. He refers to it as “the Christmas show” and he’s built it up beautifully over the past 18 years, in part as a way to give his audience a break from the hectic Christmas pace.

“At Christmas time, everyone is busy running around, spending money and doing stuff,” Fedina says. “I want them to get out of their car and just walk around and relax. If you just drive by and say, ‘Oh that’s nice,’ you’ll miss half the show.”

At least half the show consists of standard Christmas flair — a 20-foot snowman is the first to go up around Halloween, followed by about 150,000 lights, an arctic scene of penguins and bears, candy-cane trees and gingerbread-man land — but he’s also added flamingos and palm trees (his wife’s favourite tree) because, after all, it’s Christmas in the tropics, too.

There’s no shortage of Christmas display inspiration in our darkened December city, but Fedina fondly recalls a quote he read from one of his artistic heroes, when he visited the happiest place on Earth. “Walt Disney said, ‘Everything tells a story,’ so I try to make everything have a beginning, middle and end,” Fedina explains. “Like with the flamingos — they’re all on one side of the pond, and on the other side there’s an alligator. I leave it up to you to fill in the blanks.”

Kids especially enjoy turning knobs to change the interactive light display, and some seniors’ homes bring residents by on bus. For families and people of all ages, Christmas at Bob’s has become part of their Christmas traditions. It’s a labour of love for Fedina — the only work required from the audience is to show up, explore and enjoy. He only asks that you take the Christmas spirit and pay it forward. “Give to charity, let someone in in traffic — whether it’s big or small, just don’t keep it to yourself.”

This article appears in the December 2019 issue of Avenue Edmonton.

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