By Amanda Rogers
The party won’t be what it usually is, or even what the city had hoped for in 2020, but Santa Claus is still coming to town for Hometown Holidays this weekend.
The annual event, which usually includes a parade, tree lighting, fireworks, vendor market, concerts, visits with Santa and sledding hill, had to be toned down this year due to COVID-19.
“In light of the current numbers and recommendations from public health and safety, we felt it was not good for us to do anything that encourages large crowds,” said Ann Beck, Mansfield Parks & Recreation’s marketing and communications manager.
While the city had planned to forego the parade this year, there were plans for a large festival downtown with a Ferris wheel, tree lighting and two nights of fireworks, but those plans had to be scrapped, too.
“We cannot have the big festival downtown like we wanted, but we will absolutely be doing that next year,” Beck said.
Beck said city event planners were disappointed, but were focusing on the festivities that were going on this weekend – like Santa.
Kids can make an appointment to have a socially distant visit with the Jolly Old Elf, who will be at The LOT Downtown, 110 S. Main St.
Kids can sign up for a free 15-minute visit here from 5-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. or 4-8 p.m. Saturday, or 10 a.m.-2 p.m. or 5-8 p.m. Dec. 11. Parents can bring their own cameras to take photos.
“Everybody will have their own window to come every 15 minutes, and Santa will be on his porch,” Beck said. “Santa’s line is always ridiculously long so he will be able to get a lot more kids in.”
Mrs. Claus won’t be making the trip this year, but she will be doing a virtual story time as part of the city’s 12 Days of Hometown Holidays. The dozen videos, which kick off Friday on the parks department Facebook page, will include ornament crafts and a sing-a-long with an elf.
“We will also be selling kits through the MAC (Mansfield Activities Center) that have all the supplies for all the activities,” Beck said. “You do not have to buy the kit, the projects use things you have around the house. The kits have enough supplies for two people to make the crafts. Kits are $40 and you can purchase them online or at the MAC (106 S. Wisteria St.). You can do them each day with us or in any order that you want.”
Watch the videos here.
While there won’t be a big tree lighting as usual, the city’s big tree is up behind City Hall, 1200 E. Broad St., and will be lit every night starting Friday.
And the ice hill is back! People can sign up here to get a 30-minute window to play games and slide down the slippery slope outside the MAC from 5-9 p.m. Friday. Cost is $5 per person.
While kids (and grown-ups) are at the MAC, they can drop off their letters to Santa in a specially marked mailbox. Letters that are posted Dec. 4-18 will get a reply from the Big Guy.
A socially distant vendor market will be spreading some handcrafted holiday cheer in downtown from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at 210 Smith St. The booths will be set up at least 6 feet apart outside with a one-way route to keep people from getting too close, Beck said.
Festive folks can make their own fun, too, with 14 photo opps set up all over the city.
“Some are walls, some are inflatables, and they will all be up by Friday,” Beck promised. “You can link to an interactive map and pick your favorite or make a scavenger hunt day and take a photo of all of them.”
Find the map to the photo spots here.
The city will plan special pop-up photo opps, too, so people should watch the city and parks department Facebook pages.
Will Baffle’s Show of Wonders will perform acts of magic and wonder from 2-4 p.m. Saturday at the Farr Best Theater, 109 N. Main St. Tickets are $12-$15 and available here.
Masks are required at all events, but kids can take them off to get a photo with Santa.
“We’re excited to be able to provide something fun,” Beck said. “It’s been a year. We could all use some fun and some cheer.”
Mansfield, Texas, is a booming city, nestled between Fort Worth and Dallas, but with a personality all its own. The city’s 76,247 citizens enjoy an award-winning school district, vibrant economy, historic downtown, prize-winning park system and community focus spread across 37 square miles. The Mansfield Record is dedicated to reporting city and school news, community happenings, police and fire news, business, food and restaurants, parks and recreation, library, historical archives and special events. The city’s only online newspaper launched in September 2020 and will offer introductory advertising rates for the first three months at three different rates.