Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and their elves are returning to the Gibson Centre on December 12 to bring a little Christmas spirit to New Tecumseth this holiday season.
The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the Centre is being converted into the North Pole, featuring Santa’s Workshop and a station where children can write their wish lists before passing them off to Saint Nick.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, kids will be unable to sit on Santa’s lap, but they can still meet with him and parents can snap a socially distanced Christmas photo.
"Everybody has to be masked and maintain the social distance, so it's all about adhering to the social distance, but still giving an opportunity for the kids to meet Santa, see Santa, and get a photo with Santa,” said Jennifer Fortin, Gibson Centre Executive Director.
"Photos are free, the parents can take their own photos. There's lots of photo opportunities in the decorated area of the Gibson Centre.”
The event will look different from years past with a one-way entrance and exit, as well as both floors of the building being utilized.
“We’re just reimagining it a little bit, where they get to now walk around the North Pole, that will be decorated. Mrs. Claus will be there and a couple of elves to ensure everyone's staying enough apart, so you can still enjoy the inclusionary factor but where we're safe,” said Fortin.
The event is by appointment only and is already over half full, so parents should register early by calling 705-435-2828 to claim a time slot.
Admission is by donation, which are much needed at this time, according to Fortin.
She said like so many other businesses, the Gibson Centre has been heavily impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everything we do at the Gibson Centre is around gathering of people, events, Gibson School of the Arts, and all of those things,” Fortin noted. “We are not able to rely on the same revenue, because those events have been cancelled or pared down.”
“The usual revenue generation that we would get throughout our events has essentially been choked off. What hasn't been choked off is our bills, our mortgage, our heating, our operational costs, our snowplowing,” she added.
The Gibson Centre is currently being run by a skeleton staff as they’ve had to lay people off to cut costs, Fortin told The Times.
“Our classes that we would normally have for the winter programs, they've been cut, we can only do a quarter of the numbers,” she explained.
Fortin said she’s expecting a good turnout and is happy that the Gibson Centre is able to host their annual “Meet Santa” event this year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s just going to be a really great little event, it's not long, we don't expect it to be. The visits shouldn't take more than, say, 15 minutes,” she said. "I think it's just a great opportunity to meet Santa, enjoy the seasonal decorations and get into the holiday spirit.
“We’re trying to make sure that we offer a bright spot at the end of this very strange year.”
Sam Odrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times