When the Middleburg Town Council voted to cancel the town’s Oktoberfest amid concerns of spiking COVID cases, fears quickly turned to the fate of the annual Christmas celebration, the community’s largest annual event.
But as of last week, unless public health conditions change significantly, the Grinch will be kept at bay.
The council on Sept. 23 agreed to allow organizers to move ahead with planning for the Dec. 4 Christmas in Middleburg event, even committing to increase the town’s contribution to the bus rental needed to move visitors to and from the downtown events area.
However, there aren’t likely to be 10,000 people in attendance this year. It’s one time town leaders are hoping for a smaller-than-normal crowd to provide space for social distancing, especially along the typically packed sidewalks along the Washington Street parade route.
Michelle Myers, who leads the Christmas in Middleburg committee after taking over for longtime organizer Jim Herbert, hopes that can be accomplished by limiting the parking available to visitors.
Typically, the organizers sell 1,600-1,800 tickets for parking. Myers said limiting that to 1,000 tickets could reduce the crowd size to 6,000-8,000 people. Other measures, such as requiring all parking to be pre-paid before the event and raising the $20 parking fee, also are under consideration. Planners also may limit the number of entries permitted in the parade.
While she said organizers are confident that they can work out a crowd-control plan that meets public health safety standards, it was important to get a commitment from the council supporting the event. That uncertainty was making it more difficult to lock down sponsors.
Mayor Bridge Littleton was among those working to keep the Christmas event in play, noting it was different from the smaller Oktoberfest, which kept participants in a fenced-in area on a blocked-off street with few options to control the crowd size.A demonstration of the council’s support for the program came in an agreement to increase its contribution to rent the parking shuttle buses from $15,000