By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – For Common Council member Mark Drnek, it’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas.
“We were in Brooklyn one time during the holidays, and all of a sudden, we heard music in the streets,” he said. “It was a game-changer.”
A similar 16-speaker system, designed by Carrie Schmidt of Bitbybit Solutions, was put in place for the downtown dining event and, come Black Friday, will fill Main Street with the sounds of holiday cheer, courtesy of the Pandora Christmas music station.
“We want to bring back that sense of community shopping downtown,” Drnek said. “We want to train people not to just go straight to Amazon.”
After Thanksgiving, downtown merchants will implement “Shop Small Weekends,” opening Saturdays and Sundays throughout the holiday shopping season.
“By not crowding it in one Small Business Saturday, we’re able to lessen the crowds and facilitate social distancing,” he said. “It’s a great downtown shopping experience.”
COVID-19 restrictions on large crowds forced Destination Oneonta to cancel the annual Santa parade, but that doesn’t mean Santa is skipping Oneonta entirely.
Instead, he will Zoom live from the North Pole to meet with kids – no bundling up or waiting in the cold required.
“Kids can sign up for a time to Zoom with Santa, and one of his helpers will let you into the chat,” said Katrina Van Zandt, Destination Oneonta’s director of membership and events. “Then you can visit one-on-one with Santa.”
Destination Oneonta is also looking for a way to record the chats so that the kids will be able to take them as a memento, Drnek said.
In addition to the Zoom chats, kids can leave letters to Santa in the mailbox at his cottage in Muller Plaza.
The annual Gingerbread House and Festival of Lights tree-decorating competitions will also be held virtually.
“This year’s theme is to build a traditional gingerbread house,” said Van Zandt. “You take a picture of yourself with it and post it on our Facebook page in each category.”
Though many categories – including Best Candy Use, Most Intricate and Tallest – are voted on by the board, there is still a chance to vote for the Viewer’s Choice, determined by who gets the most likes.
The Festival of Trees will be held much the same way, inviting homes and businesses to show off their elaborately decorated trees. “We want to see you, your pets, your families in the photo so we know it’s not one you found a picture of and submitted,” she said. “It’s hard to Photoshop yourself in!”
Both contests are live now, and winners will be announced on Dec. 10.
But there’s no Christmas without some holiday decorations, and the city will begin decorating downtown with banners and snowflakes this weekend. Destination Oneonta has purchased additional banners to promote the merchants and restaurants.