WINCHESTER — The city has scrapped plans for a holiday parade and light show this December, opting instead for a new seasonal celebration that will be held in Jim Barnett Park and on the Loudoun Street Mall.
This will be the second year in a row that Winchester canceled its annual holiday parade. Last year, health concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled the procession through downtown Winchester. In its place, city officials offered “Lights in the Park,” a free drive-through light show in Jim Barnett Park that was staged on a nightly basis for a month.
The light show will not be returning this year. Winchester Parks and Recreation Director Chris Konyar said on Monday that his department, like many private companies in the region, is struggling with staffing and there simply aren’t enough people to install and operate the intricate array of Christmas lights for such a prolonged period of time.
“It’s something that we’ll revisit in the future,” Konyar said on Monday night.
Instead, Winchester is trying something different this year. A one-day holiday open house will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Dec. 11 in the War Memorial Building in Jim Barnett Park, then shift to downtown Winchester for the afternoon.
“It still celebrates the holidays but it’s not so time-consuming or staff-intensive,” Konyar said.
The holiday open house will be free for all ages and, with one exception, no pre-registration is required.
“We’ll have doughnuts and coffee, and we have all kinds of cool stuff planned,” Konyar said.
Morning activities in the War Memorial Building are scheduled to include crafts and games for kids, fitness classes set to holiday music for adults, a scavenger hunt, a prize drawing and a visit from Santa Claus. Attendees can also build a gingerbread house, but that project has a $40 fee and participants must register by Dec. 4.
“It’s gonna be a great event,” Winchester Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Chairman Bill Stewart said. “You will not be bored.”
At 11 a.m., Santa will board a Winchester firetruck and ride downtown to the Loudoun Street Mall, where more holiday-related activities and events will take place until about 2 p.m.
“They’ve got all the shops and vendors down there doing holiday sales, and they’re lining up holiday performers for the Loudoun Street Mall,” Konyar said. “It’s free and a cool thing for families to take advantage of.”
It remains to be seen if a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony will be part of the festivities. City Manager Dan Hoffman said on Tuesday that an announcement regarding the tree that will be placed on the Loudoun Street Mall will be forthcoming. Last year’s lighting ceremony, like the parade, was canceled due to COVID-19.
For more information and updates on Winchester’s holiday celebration scheduled for Dec. 11, visit winchesterva.gov.
While the city has decided against a second year of “Lights in the Park,” fans of illuminated seasonal displays are still in luck. The Frederick County Parks and Recreation Department will hold its annual “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” light show Nov. 26 through Jan. 2 in Clearbook Park. To learn more, visit fcva.us/departments/parks-recreation.