EMPORIUM — Several big changes are coming to Christmas in the Wilds in December, some due to COVID-19 restrictions and others inspired by suggestions coming from the public.
The largest change coming this year is the fact that the event has been switched to the first weekend of December instead of the second weekend.
“With the PA Game Commission adding Sunday hunting, it gives those taking to the woods three full weekends to come home with a deer,” read a Cameron County Chamber of Commerce press release. “The chamber board noted this gave the opportunity to take the middle weekend to celebrate Christmas in the small county.”
The Emporium Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary craft show and Breakfast with Santa were cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. Additionally, the annual Christmas House Tour has been cancelled and Santa has decided not to bring his reindeer to the community to meet restrictions placed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Though the pandemic may have put a damper on some traditional activities, creative thinking has brought about other options.
“Thinking outside of the box has created other opportunities to celebrate Christmas in the Wilds,” said Tina Solak, Cameron County Chamber of Commerce executive director.
Sara Jane’s will be Santa’s headquarters this year. The jolly elf will meet visitors of all ages beginning Nov. 28 during Shop Small.
Several activities are planned throughout the month of December, including an adult mask themed party.
The weekend of Dec. 4 and 5 will kick off with a night parade where dozens of families, businesses and organizations are decorating lighted floats for the event. The route for the parade has been approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Floats will leave the former Fourth Street School and progress on Route 120 to Woodland Avenue. Watchers are then encouraged to follow Santa back to the center of the business district for the lighting of the Christmas tree.
Also on Dec. 4 and 5, the Emporium Volunteer Fire Department will be used for a basket raffle, which replaces the Christmas Community Dance, benefiting a family in the community. Vendors will line the Emporium business district Dec. 5. Starting that night, visitors are encouraged to take a trip throughout the county voting for the best decked out house.
The chamber is still taking registrations for the house decorating contest until Nov. 28. The lights must be turned on starting Dec. 4; judging is planned in each municipality of the county. If COVID-19 restrictions allow, Student Transportation of America has offered a bus to take residents throughout the county to see the decorations.
Cameron County Chamber of Commerce executive director Tina Johns warned motorists of traffic tie-ups on Nov. 21, when a 40-foot evergreen will be cut from a property on West Fourth Street and delivered to the vacant lot in downtown Emporium. The tree was donated by the Novak family and the lights were purchased by an anonymous donor. The decorating of the tree will take place over a week period in time for Santa Claus to light the tree following the parade on Dec. 4.