The annual Christmas Around Town event in downtown Three Rivers will see some further modifications to its program in light of pandemic health orders from the state earlier this week. Some features will continue as planned previously, while others will be postponed or cancelled pending further developments from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Christmas Around Town typically takes place on the weekend immediately after Thanksgiving. In a typical year, it features a tree lighting ceremony, visits with Santa Claus following his arrival on Main Street by fire truck, carriage or wagon rides through the Main Street Historic District, and a variety of hands-on activities.
However, for this year, event organizers with the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority and Main Street Program (TRDDA) were already planning a modified program in light of the ongoing pandemic. Since the HHS issued a comprehensive, new health order on Sunday, TRDDA Executive Director Tricia Meyer said there will now be additional changes.
There will still be a tree lighting ceremony at the Mural Mall downtown at 6 p.m. on Friday, November 27. Mayor Tom Lowry will still perform a reading from “The Night Before Christmas,” and the lights will still illuminate on cue. However, for the public, the ceremony will be livestreamed online on Facebook Live. Meyer said rather than having people come down and stand in close proximity to one another, organizers are asking members of the public to enjoy the ceremony from the comfort of their own home instead.
On Saturday, November 28, a planned Main Street “Storybook Stroll” will still take place as planned. Displayed in the storefront windows up and down the historic downtown will be a series of displays that combine to tell a holiday storybook tale. The displays will include mounted storyboards surrounded by related, themed décor. The feature is sponsored and organized by the Three Rivers Public Library.
Previously, Meyer said Storybook Stroll guide maps would be available at her office, but instead, they will now be made available in the days before the event on Facebook. As of publication time, Meyer said a make-your-own ornament kit themed to go with the Storybook Stroll will still be available at the library, located at the corner of North Main and Moore Streets, and Meyer will still be in her office at 57 North Main Street on Saturday to answer questions if necessary.
Also on Saturday, Meyer said event promoters would still like people to be aware that Saturday is Small Business Saturday, a nationwide event to promote support of small, local businesses during the holiday shopping season. Many merchants on Main Street will still be open for shopping and services, and downtown restaurants will have take-out food available for sale.
Several individual merchants and building owners are still hosting holiday event features, including a Holiday Artisan Market at 36 North Main Street featuring jewelry, artwork, textiles, and crafts from a variety of vendors. Martell Realty, located at 8 North Main, is hosting a pop-up vendor show at another building two doors down. Several other businesses may also still host event features depending on their own capacities. Most downtown merchants open for business at or around 10 a.m.
One holiday open house, normally hosted each year by Ridgeway Floral on West Michigan Avenue, is instead being substituted this year with a “Bright and Shiny” running promotional feature lasting several weeks. The shop chose the change this year due to the way the small size of its interior space impacts social distancing concerns. Although there will not be refreshments, owner Teresa Cytlak said there will be holiday décor and weekly features that include a door prize drawing.
Postponed to a future date to be determined will be an appearance by Santa Claus, as well as downtown wagon rides and a balloon artist. Meyer said event organizers hope to be able to reschedule those activities for another weekend closer to Christmas, but that will depend on how further orders from HHS play out. HHS’s current restrictions expire after December 8, but past pandemic health orders have been extended when daily new case counts remained high.
Despite the changes, Meyer said the public is still encouraged to come out. “Just come downtown and enjoy the decorations,” Meyer said. To add to the festive nature of the weekend, Meyer said, there will be more decorations downtown than usual, including several large snowmen and other items that support the Storybook Stroll theme. “The outdoor stuff is still fine,” Meyer said. “Come stroll the streets. It’s going to be a fun vibe downtown.”
To keep the public apprised of the latest developments regarding the Christmas Around Town event this year, Meyer said updates will be available on the Downtown Three Rivers Facebook page. The tree lighting ceremony livestream will also be hosted on that page, and Storybook Stroll program maps will become available there in the days leading up to the event. Should any further changes to the program occur, Watershed Voice will report on updates.
Dave Vago is a writer and columnist for Watershed Voice. A Philadelphia native with roots in Three Rivers, Vago is a planning consultant to history and community development organizations and is the former Executive Director of the Three Rivers DDA/Main Street program.