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Santa appearances adapt to COVID-19 pandemic

Children will be able to visit Santa Claus at the Grand Central Mall in Vienna through Christmas Eve. (Photo by Candice Black)

Although COVID has dampened some Christmas cheer this season, kids still have the opportunity to see Santa Claus.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in Oak Grove on Sunday aboard one of Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Department’s trucks for their annual Santa Run.

Chaplain Gary Doan said the Santa Run has been held every year since the establishment of the fire department. It benefits West Muskingum Township and the Oak Grove side of town.

“This year, it’s going to be different,” he explained. “Santa isn’t getting out of the truck. Normally, we go to where people are out with the kids and stop and talk to them. Due to COVID, we’re not getting out this year.”

Santa’s trip will begin at 1 p.m. at Indian Run and they “hit the streets as they come through the grove,” Doan said. The truck will traverse up and down each street with sirens and lights flashing.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit Oak Grove this Sunday. (Photo Provided)

“They listen for the sirens and they wait for us to go up their street,” Doan said of the kids.

There is a second truck which will take a second Santa through the outlying areas, starting on Muskingum River Road.

Doan said kids will receive little bags of crayons, a coloring book and candy cane.

“This is community outreach the fire department has done for the past 60-some years,” he said. “It shows that the fire department is there for them and it’s payback for the kids in the community to know the fire department is there for them also.”

If it is raining Sunday, the Santa Run will be held Dec. 20.

“If it’s not downpouring, we’ll be alright,” Doan said.

He said due to COVID, the food drive they hold for the local food pantry will not be held this year.

Santa can also be found near center court at the Grand Central Mall in Vienna again this year.

The mall’s website notes children are required to wear masks due to state guidelines. He will be available until Christmas Eve. His hours are:

¯ Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a break from 3 to 4 p.m.

¯ Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a break from 2:30 to 3 p.m.

¯ Christmas Eve from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a break from 1 to 2 p.m.

Social distancing will be observed and an increased focus on disinfecting and sanitation will be followed.

“It is our top priority to ensure the health and well-being of our guests and Santa, therefore, this year, guests will not sit on Santa’s lap during their interaction, but will still have the opportunity to engage in conversation and a magical experience with Santa, while maintaining physical distance,” the mall’s website states.

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