Hudson takes new approach to holiday events, programs due to COVID-19

Live holiday displays at businesses, fireworks show among new offerings

Phil Keren
Akron Beacon Journal
Robert Knazek takes a photo of his granddaughter Payton Polak, 17 dressed as the Queen of Hearts in the window of Vertical Runner as one of live window displays on Main Street on Sunday, Dec. 13, in Hudson. Polak a member of the Hudson High School Drama Club was promoting the production of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" which will be presented virtually on Dec. 18 and 19. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]
Santa aka Bill Matonin juggles outside of Ohio Organics & Nature several shops along Main Street had live window displays for the holidays on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020 in Hudson. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]
Vivien Marmerstein of Western Reserve Academy waves to a passerby from the window of The Learned Owl at one of the live window displays on Main Street on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020 in Hudson. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]
Hannah Sooy, 14 portrays Ralphie for "A Christmas Story" as she waves from the window of Howard Hanna Realty in the live window displays on Main Street on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020 in Hudson. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]
A passer by looks at Rowdy and John Blankenship in the window of Fair Trade on Main one of the live window displays on Main Street on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020 in Hudson. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]
A visitor takes a photo of one of the live window displays on Main Street on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020 in Hudson. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal]

HUDSON — While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation or modification of some traditional holiday events, there are new programs designed to keep people's spirits up and support businesses during these challenging times.

Liz Murphy, executive director of Destination Hudson/Hudson Visitor Center, said the downtown Holiday Walk that typically occurs on the first Sunday in December was canceled this year due to COVID. Murphy said that event was replaced with a Live Windows program on three consecutive Sundays in December. 

Live Windows occurred Dec. 6 and 13, and will happen again on Dec. 20 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Folks heading downtown to check out Live Windows are encouraged to wear masks, and Murphy noted "most people" are doing so.

There are elves and other characters in the windows of several downtown businesses who are entertaining people who stroll by, as well as decorating trees, reading, wrapping packages and more. Elves are also traveling around downtown on those days handing out candy.

Murphy said the Live Windows program is an example of an activity that the Shop Safe, Shop Hudson Committee is organizing in an effort to bring people downtown and safely participate in outdoor activities during the pandemic. The committee, which has operated since April, is made up of city government staff, merchants, chamber leaders and Destination Hudson officials.

The Fairy Door project has taken on a seasonal feel with doors being decorated for the holidays, said Murphy. Small, colorful doors can be found on many storefronts throughout downtown, thanks to a project that was started earlier in the year by Julie Pawlowski of Matter of Design.

"That's another thing for families to do, and the kids just love them," said Murphy. "…We now have almost 40 Fairy Doors."

The Storyboard Walk program is continuing where families can walk from one business to another to read a page from a story. Murphy said the program has been "well-received."

A new feature of the holiday season was a fireworks show put on by American Fireworks Dec. 5.

Murphy said when the committee was first approached by American Fireworks about staging a program, she noted they initially opposed the idea, but was glad they changed course and had the event.

"It was fabulous," said Murphy. "It was just a magical 12-minute show. Many people could see it from their homes."

Christ Community Chapel on Dec. 4 and 5 hosted an event called Tinsel & Tidings where youngsters participated in a scavenger hunt and then received a gift at the end of their journey.

Another new endeavor designed to bring people downtown is the Hudson Blanket Brigade. Murphy said people are encouraged to bundle up, grab a blanket and sit outdoors at one of the downtown restaurants to have a drink, appetizer or meal.

"The good thing is our businesses and all our restaurants are abiding by all the CDC and [Ohio Department of Health] regulations," said Murphy. "So people will be safe."

Traditional events modified, canceled due to COVID-19

Due to COVID, children did not get to sit on Santa's lap at the Santa in the Barn event at Case-Barlow Farm. Santa stayed in his sleigh and children could wave to him and greet him.

The Live Nativity hosted by First Congregational Church of Hudson on Dec. 6 had a different look because both participants and attendees wore masks, and visitors had to maintain 6 feet of distancing as they walked past the scene. About a month before the Live Nativity, Murphy noted that organizers were not certain they would be able to host the event.

Murphy observed, "Sadly, there are more things that aren't happening."

In addition to the Holiday Walk, Murphy noted the Frosty Five race — which traditionally happens on Christmas Eve morning —  and the Hudson Rotary Club's Santa on the Green program were canceled.

The organizers of Christkindl on Main — which was intended as a modified version of Christkindlmarkt — last week decided to cancel the event that was scheduled for Dec. 12 and 13. 

Shelley Sedlacek, co-chair of a committee that organized Christkindl on Main, said event leaders canceled the program after Summit County was moved to Level 4 (or purple) on the state's COVID-19 map. She noted committee members "didn't feel in good conscience" that they should stage the event.

Organizers had decided in October to cancel Christkindlmarkt and instead, Sedlacek said, created an alternative event called Christkindl on Main "because we wanted to support the local merchants … and try to encourage residents to support their local stores and restaurants."

Events that were planned included a Krampus scavenger hunt, a visit with Krampus, German holiday music and a German window scene.

Sedlacek said the city was supportive of the committee's efforts, but said there were, "so many stumbling blocks in front of us."

The special events that were planned for Christkindl on Main will occur in conjunction with Christkindlmarkt in 2021.

"We'll come back with even more energy and excitement next year," said Sedlacek.

She noted the Christkindlmarkt Committee of Hudson-Landsberg Sister City will still give scholarships to students as it has done in the past.

"It's very unfortunate," said Sedlacek of the event being canceled. "Most people seem to understand…We're disappointed as much as anyone is."

'Let It Glow'

Another step is being taken to keep the holiday spirit going a little bit longer.

The holiday lights will remain up downtown through January "just to keep people's spirits up," said Murphy, who added there are plans to illuminate the gazebo area next year. She added the committee hopes residents follow suit and display their holiday lights longer than usual.

"I think we're going to call the extension of the lights 'Let It Glow,'" stated Murphy. "We're hoping we can get a lot of people on board with that."

Murphy added she is hoping some of the traditional holiday events can return next year.

"We're looking forward to next year when hopefully we'll be able to have a lot of these things back and the really good [new] ideas that we had [for this year] maybe we'll continue," said Murphy.

Live Windows locations

The locations for the third installment of Live Windows on Dec. 20 are: Ohio Organics & Nature, 220 N. Main St.;  One Eleven Salon & Spa (front window AND Clinton Street windows), 111 First St.; Howard Hanna Realty, 122 N. Main St.; The Learned Owl Book Shop, 204 N. Main St.; Hudson Fine Art & Framing, 160 N. Main St.; Fair Trade on Main, 134 N. Main St.; Vertical Runner, 112 N. Main St.; and MOD Matter of Design, 95 First St.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at pkeren@thebeaconjournal.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.