GREAT FALLS — What started out with some warm cocoa for friends and neighbors looking at Christmas lights has evolved into a festive phenomenon.
It’s even becoming a source of crosstown pride.
For almost a decade, Candy Cane Lane has lit up Great Falls neighborhoods with Christmas cheer.
Co-founder Nikki Davalos says she got the idea from her love of Christmas decorations as a child. When she and her husband came to the Electric City, they knew there were lots of lights, they just didn’t know exactly where.
“We went out and we just made a bunch of cocoa and we put it in my husband's back of his truck and we put it out on Facebook, which wasn't really that old yet, and we handed out cocoa,” said Davalos.
Nikki says no matter the temperature, the thousands of cups of cocoa they’ve given out serve as a sign of the season.
“You know, they tell you, stop and smell the roses. Well, this is like our stop and smell the roses during Christmas time. Like stop and enjoy the lights, and I guess just smell your cocoa,” said Davalos.
Candy Cane Lane has grown from one neighborhood to a whole community.
Attendees arrive at the event and can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and get their cocoa along with a map of houses taking part.
All sorts of decorating styles and themes are represented.
From musical inspiration to even a classic popular pig house.
“They have a side by side out there right now where the pigs are driving, and they've hit some reindeer. So, it's pretty cute,” said Davalos.
The decorations have even entered the crosstown clash territory. CMR’s side of town is known as Grinchville while the Great Falls High side is known as Abominable town, complete with a traveling trophy for the winner.
“It’s a leg lamp and they get to sign it each year,” said Davalos.
This year, Nikki tried something new to get the Candy Cane Lane ball rolling and to make sure her Christmas version would run smoothly by incorporating a Halloween decorating contest.
“We called it ‘Nightmare Before Candy Canes’. I'm a huge Halloween fan,” said Davalos.
While the Candy Cane Lane event is free, donations are accepted with proceeds going to their newly formed non-profit, Montana Community Matters.
“Our goal is basically to be kind of a pay it forward type organization,” said Davalos. “So, some of the things our group has talked about is paying off school lunches at some of the schools or just giving funds to the skating rink.”
Candy Cane Lane will be held Saturday, December 16th from 3 to 8:30 at Jaycee Park in Great Falls.
It’s just one more way of spreading joy during a hectic holiday season.
“There's a lot of really good things in our town and that make it great,” said Davalos. “I just want everybody to see those great things because there's so many communities that don't have it.”