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Christmas cheer amid a pandemic

Restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic may have ramped up, but groups in the area have still managed to organize a variety of Christmas events in which the public can participate and maintain social distancing.

The following inexhaustive list of events features good opportunities for residents of the Heart of Virginia to vacate their homes, however briefly, to enjoy some socially distanced, holiday-infused cheer with each other. Some of these opportunities don’t even require folks to mask up and leave their vehicles.

While the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce cannot hold its usual Holiday House Tour, it is hosting the 2020 Battle of the Bulbs through Saturday, Dec. 12.

“It’s completely virtual,” Executive Director Anne Tyler Paulek said. “People are competing for decorating their homes and businesses.”

The chamber explains on its Facebook page how the new event works. There are two categories — business and residential. The residential category offers options for classy or tacky.

Homes or businesses must be registered with the chamber for a small entry fee. Registration will remain open until Friday, Nov. 27, at midnight. Lights must be up and ready by Dec. 1 at 4 p.m.

“We will create a map of participants and share with the community,” the chamber states on its Facebook event listing. “The community will be able to tour and vote Dec. 1st at 5 p.m. through Dec. 12th at midnight. Winners will be announced Dec. 14th.”

Prizes will be awarded for the winners in the following categories — 1. Business 2. Residential Classy 3. Residential Tacky.

“We’re donating all of our proceeds to FACES (Farmville Area Community Emergency Services),” Paulek said in reference to the event.

While she expects the Holiday House Tour to return next year in place of the Battle of the Bulbs, another new chamber holiday project this year is one the organization is hoping will become an annual affair.

“There’s a tree people should stop by and see,” Paulek said, referring to a Christmas tree at the Hotel Weyanoke. “A lot of our Chamber Champions decorated snowflakes, and so that will be up for the season, and (people) should go check it out.”

The chamber is co-hosting this tree with the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts, the Farmville Downtown Partnership and the Hotel Weyanoke.

“There’s no specific (tree-raising) event because we couldn’t (hold one) with the regulations, but the tree will be up tomorrow,” Paulek said Monday, Nov. 23.

Bear Creek Lake State Park in Cumberland will hold its drive-thru light show, Lights at the Lake, Dec. 4-6 and 11-13. The show will run from 5-7:30 p.m. each night.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the Cumberland Christmas Mother (CCM). Those attending are encouraged to help others by bringing their donations for the CCM.

Last year, those attending the drive-thru light show helped collect more than 800 toys and raise nearly $3,600, which helped 118 area families in need.

Bear Creek Lake State Park Manager Joey Dayton said the park has expanded the light show, buying more lights. The park has enjoyed an uptick in visitors this year, and he said he expects there to be an uptick in visitors viewing Lights at the Lake too.

“It’s a drive-thru event, so I feel like families are going to feel like it’s a safe environment to come out and enjoy the Christmas lights,” he said.

While this event is largely ready-made for the year of COVID, it would not be 2020 if some changes were not required.

“Due to the COVID stuff, we are not having our annual pancake supper with Santa,” Dayton said. “The friends group will be doing a chicken dinner fundraiser that will be like a drive-thru-type deal.”

Friends of Bear Creek Lake State Park will prepare 200 ready-to-eat chicken dinners available Sunday, Dec. 13, from 5-7 p.m. for a small fee. The meals will include a grilled chicken quarter, a roll, beans and coleslaw. Contactless pick-up will be provided. Call (804) 840-2985 for tickets.

Farmville Church of Christ on Milnwood Road is known for holding a live nativity around Christmastime, but the church’s pastor, Jim Price, noted COVID restrictions did change a few things this year.

“We have normally had scenes all around the church where people drive around,” he said. “This year, we’re going to just put one big scene up and put it out near the road, and we’re blocking off the driveway, so people will just drive on Milnwood Road to see it.

“It will have some shepherds and probably some wisemen around it and the village-type people,” he said. “It will all be live with people and animals.”

It will be presented Dec. 18-20 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. each night.

In the Town of Dillwyn, the youth of Central Virginia Christian School will be putting on an event that combines some elements from the previous two events described in this article. The school will present Christmas in America, featuring a drive-thru tour of Christmas lights and a live nativity.

The event will be held Dec. 11-13 from 6-8 p.m. each night.

Vehicles are instructed to enter Main Street at the intersection of Highway 20 and 15 at Dollar General/Farmers Bank. Traffic will be one way with an exit at Pocket Park. Visitors can continue through the Town of Dillwyn to enjoy more lights and decorations.

The Farmville Jaycees and the Robert Russa Moton Museum will be presenting Hanging with Santa Saturday, Dec. 12, from noon-4 p.m.

The event, held at the Moton Museum, will include pictures with Santa, take-home treats and the singing of Christmas Carols. Visitors are encouraged to bring a toy for donation.

Social distancing and masks will be required at the event.

Waterworks Players will be presenting a live online performance of the Christmas classic, “A Christmas Carol,” Dec. 11 and 12, from 8-10 p.m. each night, according to the organization’s Facebook events page. A small fee is required for online access to the performances.

The event announcement notes that Don Blaheta has written an adaptation of the classic story designed for performance via videoconferencing software.

The announcement added that in the event of unforeseen circumstances, it is possible that the live performance may be replaced with a pre-recorded version.