How the Pandemic is Impacting Local Holiday Traditions

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – There are a lot of traditions to look forward to during the holiday season. Like many other things in our lives this year, COVID-19 is impacting how we celebrate. A couple local activities are making adjustments in order to keep people safe and healthy.

Not even a pandemic could keep Santa Claus from coming to town. At Valley West Mall, there’s a “safe Santa set-up” that allows Saint Nick to still hear everyone’s Christmas wishes.

Instead of children sitting on his lap, Santa will be behind a plexiglass barrier.

“Well, I’m not getting crushed as much,” Santa said, “which is good because I’ll be in better shape to get down those chimneys.”

As you enter Santa’s workshop, prepare for some changes. Social distancing, mask wearing, and “santa”-tizing are a few things on the list in order to visit the big guy in the red suit.

Those at Valley West Mall aren’t counting on the usual 15,000 people that come through during the holidays. Still, they wanted to uphold the annual tradition.

“Well I think it’s been a tough year for everybody,” Trisha Barton, marketing director at Valley West Mall, said. “We didn’t have the Easter Bunny this year and people were just devastated. And as we go into the holidays and everyone’s trying to social distance, we just thought it was really important to find a way to make Santa safe and to make families safe.”

Santa will be at Valley West Mall through Christmas Eve. To see the visit times for each day, click here

One annual tradition that didn’t have to change much is Jolly Holiday Lights. In its 25th year, it will continue to be merry and bright.

“It’s a great, safe, family activity,” Rachel Reams, interim president and CEO of Make-A-Wish Iowa, said. “So you can go in your car and drive through the lights, socially distanced and safe.”

With 300 children waiting for their wish to be granted during the pandemic, Make-A-Wish Iowa says people’s participation in their biggest fundraiser is needed.

“It’s a great way to celebrate the holidays with your family and while you’re doing that you’re also being part of a wish,” Reams said.

Even though the holiday memories will look different, Santa’s Christmas wish remains the same.

“Just that I’d like to see everybody out here, sharing those smiles with us,” Santa said. “Because that’s their gift to me and everyone else.”

There are still a few adjustments due to COVID-19 for Jolly Holiday Lights including updated wait times and website, jollyholidaylights.org. Click here to buy tickets. 

It opens for the season Friday, Nov. 27 and goes through Dec. 30. It’s held at Adventureland in Altoona from 5:30 to 10:00 p.m. 

Santa will also be at Bass Pro Shop and Jordan Creek Mall with safety measures. Jordan Creek Mall is also offering virtual visits with Santa for those not wanting to go to the mall. You can find more information here.

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