The events that kick off the holiday season in Idaho Falls and Ammon next week will look different as Idaho has reverted to Stage 2 of its pandemic reopening.
Idaho Falls’ annual downtown tree lighting ceremony on Nov. 27 will be livestreamed on the Facebook page of Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation. The city parks department has been putting up lights and garlands in the downtown area over the last week, while smaller trees have been placed throughout Civitan Plaza to prepare for the lighting.
Mayor Rebecca Caser will attend the lighting event in-person starting at 6 p.m. After a visit from Santa Claus and a presentation from the Idaho Falls National Guard to accompany the “Honoring Idaho’s Brave” theme of the main Christmas tree, the trees and snowflake lights will be turned on.
Gov. Brad Little’s public health order last week prevented gatherings of more than 10 people as part of the Stage 2 coronavirus restrictions, which forces the attendance for the tree lighting online. Downtown Development Center Executive Director Catherine Smith said that while they couldn’t prevent people from showing up in person to watch the lighting, she encouraged people to stream it from the comfort of their home.
“I’ve been pretty impressed with the responsibility I’ve seen from people downtown. I think they’re aware of where we are with the darn pandemic, and I think people will respect the governor’s orders,” Smith said.
The following night, Ammon will kick off its holiday season with the Winter Light Parade. The fifth edition of the parade will be held as a “reverse parade” Saturday, with floats parked along a route through the Hillcrest High School parking lot and families encouraged to drive past between 6 and 8 p.m.
“We think it will be nice for people to see them from their cars, instead of having to stand out in the cold,” parade assistant director Brandy Shurts said.
Both the fireworks and the gazebo lighting in McCowin Park have been canceled to further reduce the potential for crowds. The lights in McCowin Park will see a quieter debut during the week and will be on every night through New Year’s Day.
The Winter Light Parade’s sponsors have doubled the prize money available for the three best floats this year, including $800 for the best overall float and $600 for the best use of lights. Shurts said that 24 groups have already signed up to submit floats for the event.