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In the midst of the global pandemic, Christmas celebrations within the city of Roanoke Rapids will take on a different look this year.

“We’ve been closely monitoring the governor’s reopening plan through the spring and summer and have been discussing Christmas events since late spring and early summer,” Main Street Development Director Christina Caudle said today.

“When the governor issued phase 3 it was apparent we were not going to be able to have our usual Christmas events,” parks and recreation Director John Simeon said.

That includes the annual parade, both Caudle and Simeon confirmed.

Through the efforts of sponsorships, however, there will be Christmas celebrations within the city.

Caudle said $20,000 has been raised over the last several months to put together the Joy in the Park Christmas. Those funds come from the Halifax Convention and Visitors Bureau, Edward Jones — Robert Caudle, Rivertown Consignments, Angel’s Closet, the Rewritten Story Foundation, Main Street Roanoke Rapids and Halifax Linen.

“It shows the community has stepped forward in light of the pandemic to bring joy and the holiday spirit that is sorely needed in our community,” Simeon said.

At Centennial Park a 25-foot Christmas tree will be placed and on December 4 at 6 p.m. the tree and traditional lights throughout the city will be turned on. “Centennial Park will be the focal point of our community Christmas,” Simeon said.

The artificial Christmas tree comes with LED lights and a 4-foot star. There will be a 6-foot tall standing ornament with other Christmas elements and lights while grapevine ornamental balls will hang on the set of oak trees at the park. There will be lights and lasers accompanied by Christmas music, he said. 

Also on December 4 beginning around 5:30 food trucks will be available at Centennial Park. “We encourage families to walk through the park and take advantage of photo opportunities,” Simeon said.

On December 5, in the uptown part of the city, there will be a Christmas Joy Crawl starting at 3 p.m. where visitors can shop and dine “at our many locally-owned businesses along the avenue,” said Caudle.

At the 1026 urban greenspace Main Street will have its Santa mailbox where children can drop off their letters and get a reply letter back. There will be a special appearance by Santa who will be practicing social distancing in light of the pandemic. 

Also at the greenspace a 9-foot decoration spelling out Joy will be placed and the O will be a lighted archway, Caudle said.

At 5 p.m. on December 5 there will be a Christmas ridealong where parks and recreation will register 50 cars to have a tour of the avenue beginning at Kirkwood Adams, and then a trip down the avenue around Centennial Park.

The ridealong will be escorted by the police department and will conclude at First Street.

Simeon said the department is encouraging families to arrive early at Kirkwood and decorate their vehicles in the holiday spirit. 

Registration for the ridealong begins November 2 and those wanting to participate should call the department at 252-533-2847 Extension 3.

“If we have more than 50 (vehicles) we will continue the registration and have another ridealong the following Saturday and if we have more we will continue the program through Christmas,” Simeon said.

The  ridealong is open to personal and business vehicles, Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Kelly Manning said. There will be no trailers or floats this year.

The decision to go this route comes from the input of several community leaders, Caudle said, and it was the consensus under the current governor’s orders a parade was not possible this year.

However, said Simeon, “Our goal is to have a Christmas parade next year.”

Said Caudle: “We hope the new events will show a positive light and enhance our traditional Christmas parade.”