With so many holiday traditions falling victim to COVID-19 this year, the Community of Lebanon Association didn’t want the city’s annual tree lighting to falter as well.

So, to ensure that as many people could enjoy the occasion – safely from home, if they so choose – the committee decided to go virtual.

“Throughout this crazy year we have been following the directives closely to decide what is the best options for hosting the different CLA events,” CLA vice president Emmily Longenecker told LebTown. “We had a feeling pretty early on that the holiday season wasn’t going to look the same way that it usually does, but wanted to make sure that no matter what, we planned for putting up the Christmas tree at 9th and Cumberland Street to bring some festive cheer to our community!”

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Longenecker also co-chairs the Holiday Events committee with Pam Shirk and serves on the tree lighting planning committee with Shirk, Amy Kopecky and Laurie Crawford.

“We had to make some tough decisions when we had to cancel the in-person parade and the carriage rides, both of which are great holiday traditions here in our community,” Longenecker said in an email. “But the Community of Lebanon Association has been helping to light up our downtown for the holidays since 1961 and we didn’t want this year to be the exception!”

The 2020 tree “stands a glorious 24 feet tall,” Longenecker said. Lylab Technology Solutions, Domino’s Pizza and Met-Ed are this year’s primary sponsors, she said.

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“As we started planning the tree lighting ceremony, we realized that the best way to ensure the largest audience would be able to enjoy the festivities would mean we would need to do something virtual,” she said. “We also thought it was a great opportunity to move the tree lighting date to the first Friday in December to combine with Downtown Lebanon’s First Friday.

“We know that our downtown businesses, community and CLA members as a whole have had a tough year and we want to do anything we can to support each and every one of them. We felt that moving the tree lighting to First Friday would hopefully bring more people downtown on a night when our local businesses are already open and offering specials and live entertainment.”

The virtual ceremony will run from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4 and will be available on the Facebook pages of both the Community of Lebanon Association and First Friday Downtown Lebanon, Longenecker said.

“This virtual event will include live-streamed music, an interview with Santa and the lighting of the tree with our own Mayor Sherry Capello,” she said in an email. “We know that visiting with Santa Claus is a big part of the event for our young participants so we are offering the opportunity to submit a question to Santa. We will then collect those questions and ask them to Santa during our interview with him.”

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Questions can be submitted online at downtownlebanon.com/questions-for-santa/ or through the “Questions for Santa” event page on Facebook.

The CLA is also partnering with local firefighters and St. Nick himself to organize some drive-by visits by Santa Claus in the community.

“Santa was so disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to spend time with the children after the tree lighting like he usually does that he wanted to have an opportunity to at least wave hello and visit our community,” Longenecker explained. “So, we have arranged with our local fire company to have them give him a ride in the one of their fire trucks and drive through the community the evening of the tree lighting. As we work out the details of how much time Santa will have to be here in Lebanon that evening we will be providing a map of Santa’s route so that everyone will have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of our favorite guy this time of year!”

Downtown Lebanon’s Main Street manager, Amy Kopecky, will host the virtual event from the window of Longenecker’s office, Iron Valley Real Estate at 835 Cumberland St., where attendees “can wave hello in the background” and, possibly, “catch a glimpse of yourself on our livestream.”

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People are also welcome to attend the third annual tree lighting in-person, Longenecker said. The mayor will flip the switch, lighting the tree, at the 9th and Cumberland Street pergola at around 6:45 p.m.

“We ask that anyone joining us downtown keeps social distancing in mind and we will be placing markers on the sidewalk to encourage this distancing,” Longenecker said. “We will also have speakers out broadcasting the virtual music and Santa interviews.”

Kopecky said organizers “expect to have around 100 attendees at the in person event and are hopeful for a positive response on the virtual side was well.”

For more information, check out the event page online.

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“We are encouraging the community to come out and support our small businesses during First Friday,” which runs from 5 to 8 p.m., Kopecky added. “I look forward to a successful event and hope that the community enjoys the evening we have planned for them.”

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The CLA has also organized a virtual Holiday Parade for 10 a.m. Nov. 21. According to Longenecker, at least a dozen participants have signed up for the event.

More information is available at facebook.com/CommunityOfLebanonAssociation.