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Window walks helping maintain community in Guelph neighbourhoods

Homemade art displayed in windows and doors for those walking by to enjoy

Being together, but apart. It’s been the new norm these last few weeks.  

To help keep spirits up, neighbourhoods are hosting ‘window walks’ to keep kids entertained while families practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

With some paper, tape and a few crayons, many families are getting innovative as they make a variety of colourful creations for their neighbours to discover. 

The Exhibition Park Neighbourhood in Guelph has been getting brighter with each day as more and more windows display animals, flowers, hearts and even inspirational words and jokes. 

“These are unprecedented times, and everyone is impacted by this in some way,” says Tracey Mackie Vlietstra, who lives in the neighborhood. 

“This gives parents something to do with their kids at home and it brings everyone together, but not together.”

Physically that is. 

The idea, Mackie Vlietstra says, came from a popular event that the Exhibition Park Neighbourhood Group hosts every year called ‘Holiday Windows’, a living advent Calendar. 

Each evening between Dec. 1 to Dec. 24 a decorated window from a neighbourhood home displays its lights for the first time.  Each window stays lit every night from its first reveal until New Year’s Eve. Because a new window is added each night as the month goes on, there are a variety of bright holiday windows to see each evening during the holidays.

What better time to expand the Holiday Windows idea and spread the cheer as many families today are hunkered down in self isolation. 

The window walks offer a creative way to help beat those social-distancing blues while getting outside for some fresh air but in a fun and safe way. 

“I posted this on social media and it was shared over 2,000 times,” Mackie Vlietstra said. 

“And more neighbourhoods are taking part too. Other groups keep sharing comments and pictures asking others to come out and have a look this and this street. It’s like a fun scavenger hunt which offers a bit of inspiration and happiness, a bit of sunshine during these times,” Mackie Vlietstra said. 

Working in education for over 30 years, Mackie Vlietstra says this has been a time of uncertainty for so many including her own family and especially her grandchildren.  

“My two-year-old grandchild is so confused. I try and talk to her as much as I can, but she just doesn’t understand why she can’t go to Yaya’s house,” she said.  

“I’ve been working with kids for a long time so with something like this in the neighbourhood, it just makes me happy to see kids having fun.”

How can locals let each other in on the game? A calendar is posted on social media to update upcoming window decorative ideas allowing neighbourhood residents to look ahead and plan for the next big decorative project they will display.

“I’ve had hearts in my window in support of all of the healthcare workers and that idea really caught on. Flowers are on the calendar and Easter eggs are also coming up,” she said. 

 “Our neighbourhood group is such a fun group. On Boxing Day, we all get together and have a dual at the park with left over Christmas paper rolls. Everyone comes out.”

The Exhibition Park Neighbourhood Group is a community-based, not-for-profit organization.

The group, along with its parent group, the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition, help to build a healthy, helpful and inclusive neighbourhood by providing programs and events that encourage community participation and involvement.

“It’s such a great community and right now, the ‘window walks’ can help bring some smiles during this crazy time while people reach out to each other from inside their homes,” Mackie Vlietstra says. 

“In the end, we realize what’s important to us.”