OXFORD — Celebration of the start of the holiday season will return to more of its traditional look this year with the all-day event Saturday, Dec. 4.
Last year’s festival was restrained from the usual observance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, moved to the Aquatic Center in the Oxford Community Park with drive-thru visits with Santa. The right jolly ‘ol elf will be back this year in a more traditional setting, although Santa’s visits with children will not include sitting on his lap.
“It’s back Uptown. It is nice to be back to the typical event where people can socialize outside,” said Casey Wooddell, director of the Oxford Parks and Recreation Department. “The biggest difference between 2019 and this year is Santa will be outdoors at both the arts center and in the park. We will set up chairs so kids can talk to Santa and still have pictures taken with him. They will be in a great location and still have a great experience.”
Santa’s arrival is always a highlight of the evening and even with a slightly modified opportunity for kids to visit with him, it promises to be night to remember.
“With a mask requirement indoors, it just wouldn’t be the same,” Wooddell said of moving the visits outside.
The day will begin at 9 a.m. with the Talawanda Band Boosters Craft Market at the Oxford Community Arts Center, continuing until 4 p.m. Pictures with Santa will from noon to 2 p.m. with a Kids Korner of holiday activities for kids during that same time period.
Santa will be available on the covered porch of the Oxford Community Arts Center which wraps around part of the building, providing a covered area for the line of those waiting to meet with him.
“The kids’ activities will be in the north parlor. With Santa outside, it will give us a lot more space in the parlor,” Wooddell said.
The scene for the Holiday Festival will shift to the Uptown parks at 6 p.m. with musical entertainment, the ice skating rink and carriage rides continuing until 9 p.m.
Santa will arrive by fire truck at 6:30 p.m. and will be available for pictures with kids until 8:30 p.m.
The live reindeer will not be back this year but Wooddell said they will have a petting zoo indoors at the arts center in the afternoon with some small animals kids can pet.
“I’m pleased with the set up,” the parks and recreation director said. “Short of major snow storm, we should be fine.”
Sponsoring the day’s activities with the recreation department are Enjoy Oxford, the Chamber of Commerce, the arts center and the Miami University student group Miami Activities and Programs Club.
“The Miami Activities and Programs Club is overseeing the ice skating rink, photo bus and free hot cocoa. It’s a partnership with students still in town. Enjoy Oxford is lining up the entertainment and the carriage rides,” Wooddell said.
Also on-hand will be someone offering glow merchandise.
While there will be some minor differences from previous years, Wooddell is expecting the community to turn out for the Holiday Festival this year after last year’s forced overhaul.
He said he did enjoy last year’s version because it was different but the return to the familiar and traditional activities will be fun. The community largely agreed, offering praise for pulling off a celebration in the face of the pandemic.
“We had overwhelmingly good comments last year and the number of people who came out is feedback, as well. We bought new decorations and people enjoyed having a movie while they waited (to see Santa) and some had a long wait,” he said. “Everybody understood we couldn’t do anything else.”
He expects the return to the traditional way of doing the festival to be popular, however, and is confident it will go well since they have already held the Independence Day and Veterans Day programs outdoors.
OXFORD COMMUNITY ARTS CENTER, DEC. 4
9 a.m.-4 p.m.: Talawanda Band Boosters Craft Market
11 a.m.-3 p.m.: Local musicians perform
Noon- 2 p.m.: Santa Claus makes an appearance; Kids Korner crafts and activities will happen
(Facial coverings required)
UPTOWN PARK EVENTS, DEC. 4
5-9 p.m.: Live music, various groups scheduled
5-9 p.m.: Ice rink open
5-9 p.m.: Horse-drawn carriage rides
6:30 p.m.: Santa arrives by firetruck and helps the mayor flip the lights on
6:30-8:30 p.m.: Santa photos at the Enjoy Oxford office
Live music schedule and more info: enjoyoxford.org