The Medora Christmas Festival committee couldn’t let the holiday pass without lifting the spirits of residents.
When announcing in September the cancellation of the festival due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee ensured it would still work hard to bring some Christmas cheer.
At 6 p.m. Friday, that will occur when a Christmas tree lighting ceremony is conducted in front of the Medora Library. Choirs will sing and bagged cookies will be handed out all while following COVID-19 guidelines.
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"We’re going to keep it small," committee member Nick Walden said. "It’s uptown. It’s going to be well socially distanced. We thought we could still do that. We figured we could still pull that off."
While there will be no parade, vendors or a Christmas ball, a few other activities are still on the schedule: A holiday lights contest, Christmas cards and ornaments and letters to Santa.
The contest is open to all residents within town limits. No entry is necessary.
On Dec. 10, festival committee members will go around town and choose the top three holiday lights displays. First place will receive $100, second place will get $75 and third place will be given $50. The winners will be notified and announced on the festival’s Facebook page on the evening of Dec. 11.
"In years past, we’ve done it different. We’ve had people drop entries in at the bank with their address on it. This year, we’re just keeping it in town limits and keeping it kind of small so we don’t have to do a lot of driving out," Walden said. "We’re just going to pick the top three houses between our group, come up on a consensus and hand out a little bit of money for that."
The cards and ornaments were designed by Walden and are available for purchase at State Bank of Medora during regular business hours. Cards are $3 apiece and include a custom Medora Christmas Festival envelope, and ornaments are $15 each.
The cards are locally oriented, including drawings and photographs of the Medora Brick Plant, Medora Covered Bridge, historic Carr High School and a parade float with a gingerbread house and Santa and Mrs. Claus. There’s also a card featuring Medora scenes in a snow globe drawn by Walden.
The ornaments have Medora Christmas Festival on them.
"The products are pretty cool," Walden said. "They go over pretty good every year."
Finally, a mailbox to the North Pole will be set up outside the southeast entrance to Medora Community Schools for kids to drop in their letters to Santa. That will remain in place for a few weeks.
"I’m sure Santa will be getting some replies back to anyone that drops letters in there," Walden said.
The festival has been a tradition in the small southwestern Jackson County community since 1972 and used to just feature a parade.
It later expanded to include a festival conducted on the first Saturday in December.
In 2019, the festival featured food, craft and flea market vendor booths; breakfast and lunch at the senior citizens center; live entertainment; a prince and princess contest; a parade; visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus; and a Christmas ball with live music, an ugly Christmas sweater contest, an auction, door prizes and a 50/50 drawing at the conservation club.
The Friday before last year’s festival, the lighting of the town Christmas tree was conducted in front of the library with snacks, a live Nativity and Christmas carols sung by area churches. Also, “A Christmas Story” was read at the senior citizens center, and residents could vote on the Carr Township house lighting contest before winners were announced that night.
Because the pandemic this year has resulted in restrictions on gatherings and promotion of mask wearing and social distancing, the committee had to downsize the event.
"It’s disappointing not being able to have the festival, but it’s the year we live in," Walden said, adding what the committee came up with is a safe alternative to give the community something to do.
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The Medora Christmas Festival committee has announced these activities:
6 p.m. Friday: Christmas tree lighting ceremony with choir music and bagged cookies in front of the Medora Library, 27 W. Main St.
Now through Dec. 10: Holiday lights contest open to all residents within Medora town limits; no entry necessary; cash prizes will be given to the top three displays
Now until Christmas: Buy locally oriented and designed Christmas cards and ornaments during regular business hours at State Bank of Medora, 24 E. Main St.; place letters to Santa in a mailbox outside the southeast entrance to Medora Community Schools, 82 S. George St.