Middletown not letting pandemic stifle annual holiday celebrations

Middlesex

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — For 35 years, the winter holidays have been celebrated in downtown Middletown in style, and this year will be no different. The city is not letting the COVID-19 deter them from their celebrations.

“We thought it was really important not to look at obstacles but look at what we can do better,” said Johanna Bond, vice president of the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce.

The rebranded ‘Holiday on Main presents the Magic of Middletown’ is designed to spread holiday cheer during this pandemic. There will be pictures with Santa Claus but in a still-secret social distancing way.

“We want to surprise people when we come out with that on the first day,” said Al Santostefano, Chairman of Magic of Middletown.              

The city’s huge tree will be lit on Friday, Nov. 27, but instead of the big crowd that usually gathers for the event, there will only be a handful of folks in-person.

“The tree lighting on the South Green which always drew about 3,000 people will be virtual now,” said Santostefano.

New this year is a scavenger hunt with six gnomes hidden in storefronts.

“Jingles has made quite a splash, actually,” said Bond. “Everybody is loving Jingles so look for him all around.”

Also new is a car cruise through downtown.

“You don’t have to have a fancy car,” said Santostefano. “You can decorate your pick-up truck. We’re encouraging people to decorate it for the holidays.”

Favorites like popcorn and pretzels will also be featured along with a pop-up vendor fair. 

All of the outdoor events will be spread apart so people don’t congregate in one space. 

One place that people will want to come by is the Letters to Santa box. Kids are reminded to include their name and address so Santa knows where to respond.

Stores and restaurants will be open with their own creative ways to keep people safe.

“There is Small Business Saturday but we’re going to try to amplify that,” said Bond.

The Chamber is promoting shop local every weekend of this celebration which runs between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

“We’re just trying to warm people’s hearts and make something fun out of very difficult times,” said Bond.

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