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Family-friendly county events to fit within social-distancing guidelines

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Oct 2, 2020

Tom Turkey is taking over the egg distribution from the Easter Bunny this year, as the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation will be hosting a November egg hunt event with him. Toni Milbourne

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION — The next few months will be some of the busiest at Jefferson County Parks and Recreation, as its staff prepare for Halloween and Christmas events. This year, however, the Halloween and Christmas events will be looking a little different than in the past.

“COVID-19 has changed a lot about how we view and offer programming,” said Jennifer Myers, director of the department. “While parks have been busier than ever, many of our events and activities over the last six months have been canceled.”

According to Myers, her favorite events of the year are during the holidays.

“We wanted to keep those traditions so our team worked to come up with new ideas and plans to offer the community a little bit of ‘normal’ in these crazy times,” Myers said.

That “normal” is a bit abnormal, in that the events will all look a little bit different than they previously have.

On Oct. 23 and 24, the department will host a Halloween Trick-or-Treat Trail, rather than the Halloween party previously held within the walls of the community center. The trail will feature an active walk, at the end of which each child will receive a pumpkin and a treat bag. Children are encouraged to come in costume to the event, and families must register in-advance, to ensure the park staff can maintain adequate social distancing between groups.

Added this fall is a new event that came about, because the annual Easter Egg Hunt was canceled earlier this year, due to the pandemic.

“Our resident Easter Bunny handed off the eggs to Tom the Turkey, who will offer a Turkey Egg Hunt on November 9,” Myers said.

The event will take place at The Amp, where gates will open at 10:30 a.m. Registration will also be required for this event, as the spaces are anticipated to fill quickly. Children will be divided into three age groups: four-and-under, five-to-nine, and nine-and-older. Each child will be limited to 15 eggs. Parents should note that baskets are not provided and it is not a peanut-free event.

“We are excited, and appreciate that Chick-fil-A is sponsoring this event,” Myers said.

Looking ahead at Christmas, Jefferson County Parks and Recreation will once again do things a little differently. Santa’s Polar Party, which traditionally took place within the community center, will be replaced with S’mores Christmas Cheer. The event will take place over two weekends, on Dec. 4 and Dec. 11.

Families, with up to six members, may sign up for a magical evening of Christmas cheer with a fire pit and s’mores. Organized at The Amp, families will check in and receive individual s’mores kits, which they will take to their own fire pits. Christmas music will play, and Santa Claus will be on the Amp stage waiting to visit with each group.

Touch-free, social distancing practices will be in place with Santa Claus, to ensure he remains healthy to carry out his duties later in the month. Each family will visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus from a safe, six-foot distance. Photos will be permitted, so cameras are a must. Children are also encouraged to drop off their letters to Sant,a in the mailbox available at the event. Each child who delivers a letter will receive one in return.

To register for these events, visit www.jcprc.org. Follow Jefferson County Parks and Recreation on Facebook for activity and event announcements.