CARBONDALE — Like many this holiday season, Carbondale leaders are finding ways to be festive while keeping socially distanced.
Typically, the first Saturday in December sees townies and visitors alike clustered together along Illinois Avenue in Carbondale for the annual Lights Fantastic Parade. Hot chocolate from Cristaudo's and maybe some holiday cookies from home flow freely as the dark streets are lit up by floats aglow with Christmas lights. The end of the parade sees the man in red waving behind his team of lighted reindeer.
Not this year, though.
“We just can’t bring people downtown to sit shoulder to shoulder,” Kathy Renfro, executive director of the Carbondale Park District, said. She said the parade’s planning committee had been watching the COVID situation as early as August to make a decision on how, or if, to have the parade this year.
“We are saddened to have to cancel the parade this year, but we are looking forward to celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2021,” a news release about the parade cancellation reads.
“We’re doing what we can to keep it festive and safe,” Renfro said of this year’s plans. Instead of gathering together to watch the parade, spectators will instead be able to view some of the floats from 6 p.m. Dec. 5 through Dec. 6 at the South Washington Street concert venue between Walnut and Main streets.
For those wanting a bit more, though, there are several socially distant events planned to boost anyone’s enjoyment of the holidays. There is a full slate of events Dec. 5 aside from the start of the parade float viewing. The annual lighting of the Carbondale Holiday Tree with Mayor Mike Henry is set for 5 p.m. at Town Square Pavilion. Also at 5 p.m. is the announcement of the winner for this year’s Fantastic Window Display Contest. From 4 to 6 p.m. Dec. 5, there is also the Carbondale Main Street Cookie Walk Scavenger Hunt, which will feature free treats outside of select downtown businesses.
Renfro said it’s not a normal year, but she hopes that the festivities Dec. 5 and 6 will help spur maybe a little bit of safe, local shopping, too.
Renfro said she knows it’s hard not getting together with family and friends and engaging in traditions this year, but she said the most “generous form of celebration” this year is to share the holiday spirit in other ways. She encouraged people to maybe make new traditions.
She said there may not be enough room to stand and sing carols together, but there is plenty of room to “take care of each other.”
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