The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked organizers to create a unique, safe winter festival in Selkirk this year.
In what is believed to be a first in Manitoba, the Selkirk Biz Santa Parade of Lights will kick off the two-day Holiday Alley festival with sort of a reversal of roles on Dec. 4.
Floats will be stationary along a one-way route from a decorated Selkirk Park and people will drive by with passengers in their COVID-19 cohort bubble to view them and continue to a brightly lit downtown.
“In all of my network and my experience, I have not heard of anybody else doing this,” Selkirk Biz executive director Sheri Skalesky said Oct. 13, noting combining the usually earlier parade with Holiday Alley had been planned before the pandemic.
“Just because of the current public-health situation, and for us needing to adapt to be compliant with that, I see this as such a positive because I think this could be the future of our event itself.”
The concept actually helps the logistics of putting on a safe parade at night that is sometimes in snowy, slippery conditions, she added.
The popular photos with Santa will take place at parade’s end on Manitoba Avenue, but with a social-distancing approach.
“Nobody’s leaving their cars,” Skalesky said. “You’re in your vehicle, you unroll your window and Santa will be nearby and a photo can be taken.”
There may be alternative transportation options to view the parade in large vans or transit buses, she said.
The parade will be streamed live on Holiday Alley’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, as will other activities during the fourth annual festival, said Holiday Alley co-founder Shirley Muir.
According to Muir, following the parade, families are welcome to have their photos taken with Santa in downtown Selkirk, but with a social-distanced approach. The exact location where Santa will be for photos is yet to be determined, but Muir said the Jolly Old Elf will either be on either Eveline Street or Manitoba Avenue as part of the Holiday Alley celebrations.
Muir also noted that Santa will be back on Saturday night for more drive-thru family photos for those who missed the opportunity the night prior.
Holiday Alley is an offshoot of Homes for the Holidays, which is on hold this year, Muir said. That decision was made in August when property owners realized it probably wouldn’t be safe for strangers and guests to tour homes and heritage sites during the pandemic. The five-year event has raised more than $130,000 for non-profit housing in Selkirk, St. Clements and St. Andrews, and established the Homes for All fund that’s at about $60,000.
Muir explained Holiday Alley volunteers are working with the public health officer to find out what they can and can’t do amid pandemic restrictions “because we can’t have our usual 3,000 or 4,000 people in downtown Selkirk.”
Live entertainment is planned in some downtown venues, perhaps without audiences depending on health rules at the time, therefore, it will be broadcasted. There will be an online Holiday Alley family quiz and the drive-up Santa photos will be posted on the Facebook page.
“This community, like a lot of communities, needs something to celebrate and they need to feel joy and they need to feel connections and they need to do it safely,” Muir added. “The volunteers here are very, very determined to figure that out.”