Warrenton’s Christmas may look different this year, but creativity will save many traditions
Christmas in Warrenton has always been special and magical, for both children and adults. Our children have grown up going to the Christmas Parade and GumDrop Square to sit on Santa’s lap to tell him their Christmas wishes, and then shopping for Christmas gifts at Santa’s Secret Workshop on their own, with assistance from Santa’s elves.
Two years ago we published an article about everything and everyone that were involved with making Christmas in Old Town Warrenton magical. This year, of course, has been a whirlwind of uncertainty, but Warrenton didn’t give up. Our community leaders stepped up to the challenge and made creative plans and decisions while weighing safety with tradition, an extremely delicate balance. With the pandemic restrictions constantly shifting, it was like trying to hit a moving target.
Charity Furness, Executive Director of Experience Old Town Warrenton, said, “We really had fun thinking outside the box. Once you get out of that box, of “this is what we’ve always done,” you can really reinvent an event. Our board leaders Tray Allen, Will Ashwell, and Amelia Stansell worked with me and the rest of the board to look at everything and discover different ways to make all our normal traditions safe and just as fun.”
The Christmas Parade is, of course, one of the most popular events of the year, one that ushers in the holiday season. But this year, given the crowds it always draws, it wouldn’t be a safe situation. So Sean Polster, who chairs the parade every year, had to think creatively when planning the event.
The importance of the parade to our community was foremost on Sean’s mind as he planned, but one thing was not an option: not even trying. They decided to forge ahead with the reverse parade. He said, “I think we (all the volunteers) are committed to bringing the parade to our community in whatever capacity we can this holiday season as it is a source of joy for so many every year, and will be even more so now in 2020. This year has provided hurdles on every turn, and we know the pandemic landscape can change, but until we’re told we can’t do it, we are charging forward.”
GumDrop Square and Santa’s Secret Workshop
Experience Old Town Warrenton also had to be creative this year to bring the same magic to Warrenton. GumDrop Square was the main problem; how were our kids going to see Santa?
“This is where we really got creative,” says Charity. “One of our thoughts was to use the new Town Hall building on Main Street, that used to be the bank. They had a drive-through, and we thought about putting Santa there, and having kids send their wish lists through the vacuum tube. But then we realized that it would be impossible to take photos through bullet-proof glass, so even though it would have been unique and fun, it wasn’t the answer.”
Having Santa meetings outside would also be safe, but would be first of all, cold, and then also weather-dependent. Having him sit in one of the showcase windows on Main Street was also a possibility, but there wouldn’t be any interaction with Santa at all, and also photography would again be difficult through glass. The performance room at the Gloria Faye Dingus Alliance was the choice in the end, having enough space to socially distance and limit the number of people in the building.
What about the elves?
“We weren’t comfortable reaching out to the high schools for teen volunteers as we usually do,” Charity said. “But then we decided that elves come in all shapes and sizes, and we reached out to local businesses. The Purple Pumpkin and VonCanon General Store stepped up and their staff are the elves this year. They were also generous enough to host Santa’s Secret Workshop at their locations. It’s a great example of how strong our community is, and how willing people are to chip in and help.”
While we realize that the success of Warrenton’s Christmas traditions is due to many organizations and individuals, the scope of the article didn’t have space to name everyone who gives their time and talent to our community every December. We appreciate each and every one of you who works towards making Christmas in Warrenton special.
From the Mayor:
Obviously, this has been a challenging year, but as a community we have weathered it remarkably well due to our devoted and passionate local support for our businesses and each other. And I think that is what we are going to see as we enter the holidays. We strive to find innovative ways to make sure we enjoy as many traditions as possible while providing everyone with a safe environment in which to enjoy them.
What will make this unusual Christmas truly festive and celebratory is not any one thing, it will be in how we share it as friends and neighbors. Our traditions may look different, but I believe that all of us will make sure that Christmas in Warrenton is as festive as ever. And, quite possibly, it might be the most special Christmas in memory.
— Carter Nevill