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A different kickoff to the Christmas season

Area residents look on at Marquette Township's annual Catch the Spirit of Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in 2017. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — The Marquette Township tree lighting on Tuesday will look a little different this year, but officials are determined that neither COVID-19 or the Grinch will steal Christmas this year.

Marquette Township Manager Jon Kangas said the event will go on as planned on Tuesday, with a few changes.

Santa will make an appearance on a Marquette Township fire truck at 6 p.m., with the annual tree lighting scheduled soon after.

Per Michigan Department of Health and Human Services rules, crowd sizes will be restricted to 25 or less at a time, but area children will still be able to walk up with their parents or guardians and leave their Christmas list in exchange for a gift, Kangas said.

Attendees are asked to avoid congregating in crowds and to patiently wait for their turn in or near the vehicle they arrived in.

“We strive to make this exchange similar to how trick-or-treating was conducted this year, ‘one way,'” Kangas said. “This opportunity should be treated like a viewing of Santa, not a visit with Santa. We need to keep Santa and the children safe from the transmission of this virus so we can all have a wonderful holiday season.”

He added that anyone in attendance will be required to wear a face mask. The viewing area, which will be limited to a crowd of 25 including volunteers, will be sectioned off with proper markings placed to allow greater than 6 feet of distance between families and to ensure social distancing is maintained.

“We feel breathing some fresh air will be good for everyone,” Kangas said. “As long as the attendees exercise the necessary personal responsibility, we know we can do this safely, and expect and trust everyone who comes will do just that. We can’t afford to cancel our Christmas tree lighting event, but we can safely and smartly adapt to current rules. Fortunately, the Westwood Mall parking lot is quite expansive, so folks can stay warm in their cars and listen to Christmas music with their windows cracked open, or on Sunny 101.9 (FM) while they wait for their opportunity to see Santa.”

The township has prepared for every contingency, including unwelcome guests who might try to steal the spirit of the season.

“We suspect the Grinch will come and try to ruin Christmas,” Kangas said. “But we hope Sheriff (Greg) Zyburt and the Marquette County Sheriff’s Department will be available to apprehend him or properly send him on his way.”

He stressed that personal responsibility will be essential to ensure “a safe and joyful arrival of Santa” during the event.

Overall, township officials feel it’s important to maintain “just a small piece of normalcy amidst the new restrictions we must follow,” he said.

“2020 has been a humbug year due to COVID-19 and other factors,” Kangas said. “We are striving to safely bring some hope and joy to the lives of local children this holiday season, if even only for a brief moment.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.

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