Public health orders will once again play Grinch this Christmas in Nelson.
Restrictions due to COVID-19 and the resultant pandemic are combining to make the season of Yule the season of rules with a minimal slate of Christmas events planned for the next month.
Large gatherings are still restricted in size in the Heritage city, as across the Interior Health Authority region, as are capacity levels in most restaurants and public spaces, making coming together to carol an illegal activity.
It will be a tough sled for Christmas for the second year in a row, said Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson.
“Stress levels have been high with owners and staff dealing with protocols and uncertainty, but our community has done a great job of supporting the local bricks and mortar locations as they have pivoted and shown resilience throughout this pandemic,” he said.
The chamber feels it is still a challenge to organize certain types of large gathering events, Thomson said, given the current public health order (PHO) restrictions.
“It is not impossible, but it has been challenging for event organizers to try and focus on pulling together events, and then having last minute restrictions placed on the organizers,” he explained.
Nelson and the chamber have become “quite resilient in keeping businesses open,” he added, albeit with restrictions and protocols. That meant larger events like Mural Fest, Canada Day and Thursday night socials at the chamber that were in planning stages this year, or even close to being rolled out, when restrictions were put in place it made them impossible to pull together, Thomson said.
Shop and buy local
The biggest gift Nelsonites can give this year will be the one bought locally.
To highlight the idea the chamber of commerce-led Think Local First multimedia marketing campaign promoting local businesses, retail, food and beverage establishments will start this week.
The campaign will run through to January with an opportunity to keep the idea rolling through February and March, said Thomson.
“We are a community that realizes the importance of shopping locally, or buying locally, supporting local artisans through pop up markets and craft fairs,” he said. “We have hosted a pop up market at our Station Gallery that was very successful, as well as a recent Christmas fair at the Rod and Gun Club.”
There are two more similar events planned for Nov. 26-27 and Dec. 10-11.
Over the next couple of weeks some businesses will be hosting their own customer appreciation day, or pre-Christmas store promotions.
“We will entertain the idea of promoting Friday night or late night shopping if there is a critical mass of businesses that intend to stay open late night in December leading up to Dec. 25,” said Thomson.
Pulling in the Claus
It has been a few years since there has been any formal Santa Claus parade and a Christmas on Baker gathering downtown, and there won’t be again this year.
The chamber has never been solely responsible for pulling together an event like that, said Thomson, although they have supported and promoted any event downtown, including Christmas on Baker that was organized by Nelson and area churches.
There was also the Downtown Nelson Light Up which the chamber supported but did not actively organize and, again, no group or organization is planning to pull together a large event of that manner for this year.
The question of what to expect during the Christmas season in Nelson arose in an October city council meeting.
Coun. Keith Page asked Thomson if there were any major events planned for the winter season that would help give people some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
“Are we putting up a slate of activities that we can pull off in a COVID-safe way, in compliance with the public health orders, so that our community can get out a little bit and not be so isolated?” he asked. “Because that’s one of the manifesting issues we are seeing right now is that isolation is getting to people and we need opportunities for some fun.”
Thomson said nothing such as a winter fest has been planned, and the chamber gala has been scrapped for the second straight year.
“There was too much uncertainty and limits were still pretty restrictive and it just wasn’t quite right to be able to do it,” he said about the gala.
“It’s really tricky trying to plan an event right now because you plana and do all of the work and you don’t know if you are going to get shut down, or something else happens.”
But it will happen eventually, Thomson added, and major events in the region will come back.