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Taylor Ratzlaff holds Shelby Cheney while waiting in line for hot chocolate at the C.L. Hoover Opera House during the 2019 Hometown Holiday.

With COVID-19 in the air, many parents have voiced concerns about how they might bring their children to see Santa Claus this holiday season.

A holiday tradition as simple as sitting on Santa’s lap has been complicated this year by the pandemic and many opportunities for children to visit with the big guy in the red suit just aren’t materializing this year because of COVID-19.

However, parents need not despair, because according to Theresa Bramlage, Santa will grace the community with his presence during the annual Hometown Christmas celebration the evening of Dec. 4 from 6 until 8 p.m. in downtown Junction City. The festivities take place where they usually do, on Seventh Street between Washington and Jefferson Streets.

Everything will take place outdoors as a safety measure.

According to Bramlage, who is helping organize the event, said Santa is expected to be available to visitors at Exchange Bank.

Santa, Mrs. Claus and Buddy the Elf will be positioned in an elevated sleigh where children can visit with him while everyone maintains a safe distance.

“I’m excited about it,” Bramlage said. “We contemplated canceling it all together because we can’t get inside the Opera House obviously with crowds and the Municipal Building’s kind of the same issue and carriage rides probably weren’t going to happen."

She and several other community members began talking about how they might make the event happen, with changes to keep attendees safe.

According to Phyllis Fitzgerald, who is helping put the annual celebration on, there are a few innovative new events to help people maintain social distance while also having a good time.

New on the schedule this year will be live ice sculpting and food trucks.

Exchange Bank is scheduled to have refreshments and the C.L. Hoover Opera House will be decorated, according to Fitzgerald.

The Dorothy Bramlage Public Library will host a letter writing station where children can pen their letters to Santa and drop them into the North Pole Mailbox to ensure their Christmas wish lists get to Santa by Christmas. Also at the library, there will be book-based characters in costume, dressed for the holiday season who people can take a photo with. A story time is also on the schedule.

The library’s event will take place in front of the former George Smith Library building at 103 W. Seventh St.

There will be a window decorating contest this year for downtown businesses complete with prizes and a “keep kids warm donation tree” where people can drop off donations of warm winter gear such as scarves, socks, gloves and hats. The donations will later be handed out to community children in need.

There will still be music and strolling carolers for attendees to enjoy.

“Hopefully a lot of fun for everybody,” Fitzgerald said.

She asks that participants keep in mind that COVID-19 is still a risk.

“People will just have to practice the things that we need to so hopefully everybody stays safe and healthy,” Fitzgerald said. “Wear a mask, keep our (social) distancing and wash your hands if there’s that chance. But it should be fun for everybody.”

Fitzgerald hopes people won’t let the pandemic dampen their holiday spirit, even as they’re asked to maintain caution.

“It takes the community to make these things happen … Our vision was that we have this every year for our community,” she said.

To take part in the event, people can come downtown to Seventh Street between Washington and Jefferson Streets from 6 until 8 p.m. Dec. 4.

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