The Christmas tree lit up atop Calexico City Hall marks the end to the city’s tree-lighting ceremony in this 2018 photo. The event has been cancelled this year and is being replaced by a drive-through Santa Claus event at the Community Center on Dec. 17. | FILE PHOTO
CALEXICO — With Christmas just around the corner, Santa Claus and his helpful elves will be making their way south of the border to give local children a chance to deliver their letters during the Santa drive-through event in Calexico on Thursday, Dec. 17.
The Calexico Recreation Department will be hosting Santa’s Letter Drop-off drive-through featuring Jolly Old St. Nick and his jolly elves from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Calexico Community Center’s parking lot, 707 Dool Ave.
The first 100 children to have their letters dropped off will be receiving a Christmas goodie bag from Santa and his helpers, the recreation department shared.
The city’s drive-through Christmas event will give families a chance to continue the tradition of seeing Santa Claus this December while maintaining the state’s social-distancing public health measures. It will replace the public tree-lighting ceremony at Calexico City Hall and the city Christmas Parade.
Holiday events in most Valley cities have not been so fortunate to survive the public health orders from the state and county to maintain social distancing and avoid public gatherings, which has seen the cancellation of many annual holiday parades and market events, including the recent announcement of Imperial’s annual Christmas in a Small Town event.
“It is with disappointment we announce that Christmas in a Small Town 2020 has been cancelled, per Imperial County Public Health Department,” the city’s Chamber of Commerce posted on its Facebook Page just before 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20. “Vendors may contact the Imperial Chamber at 760-355-1609 regarding their refund.”
The event, which was scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12, would have been the 32nd annual holiday event and market for the city. It was advertised as a modified event that would only include half of the amount of vendors from years past to be able to comply with distancing guidelines, which would allow vendors to be 12 feet from each other or about a booth space between vendors, according to the city’s vendor guidelines.
Additionally, the Imperial chamber would have required vendors to be masked and bring hand sanitizer, gloves, and cleaning supplies to the event. They would have also needed to make hand sanitizer available for customers and have a barrier between the vendors’ products and the customers, noted guidelines.
Despite these efforts and several other requirements made in the hopes of preventing the spread of COVID-19, the chamber ultimately cancelled the market event.
“We are sounding the alarm,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press release announcing new and immediate actions the state was taking to curb the transmission of COVID-19. “California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet — faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer.”
In addition to the much reported limitations put on the public by a new state and county limited stay-at-home order that went into effect at 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, Christmas caroling is also cancelled this year as the county’s orders prohibit singing, chanting, shouting, and the playing of wind instruments or any instrument played by the mouth during any private gathering to prevent the spread of the virus.
Imperial is not alone in having to cancel its annual holiday event. Anthony Moreno, chief operating officer for the El Centro Chamber of Commerce, also confirmed the El Centro chamber would not be able to hold its annual Christmas parade this year as it goes against local health ordinances.
Although the city of El Centro was also not able to hold a formal Christmas tree-lighting ceremony this year, the city has already erected a fully lit Christmas tree near the city’s police department, according to members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.