By Hannah Lester
Christmas in a Railroad Town has been a staple in Opelika for 24 years.
“It’s a great family-friendly event,” said Ken Ward, Opelika main street director. “So we have Santa out there, we have miniature train rides, we have petting zoos, we have all sorts of different activities at the different shops and it’s just a great way for people to come on out and enjoy their community during the holiday season and there’s things for people of all ages.”
The event this year will need to be altered slightly to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.
“The good thing about this is event is it is mostly outdoors,” Ward said. “So that is something that really benefits us.”
Christmas In A Railroad Town will take place on Dec. 11 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in downtown Opelika.
Normally, different businesses would set up craft stations or activities inside their shops. But, due to COVID-19 restrictions, businesses are not encouraged to host activities, Ward said.
Don’t fret — the event will still include activities and crafts. This year, they will be set up outside where social distancing can be observed.
“It will be just small, little Christmas-related crafts,” Ward said. “So things such as decorating reindeer ornaments with the candy canes. Just little things like that, that don’t take very much time but are fun ways for children to get involved in the holiday spirit.”
There will be pictures with Santa, too, though from a distance, he said.
“You’ll be distanced during the part and be having to wear your masks, which will, I think, be a good reminder of this year when you look back on it,” Ward said.
A live nativity scene will likely replace the annual petting zoo, too. Christmas movies will play on a loop at Courthouse Square.
If that wasn’t enough, there will be live music.
The event helps to support the restaurants and shops in downtown Opelika too.
“We’re eliminating most of our outside food vendors here so that there’s not lots of long lines and things like that,” Ward said. “And to try to get people to try and go toward our downtown restaurants and businesses, as well, during this time.”
Although businesses won’t host craft stations, Ward still encourages patrons to visit and maybe do some Christmas shopping.
“I think it’s really important to have this event during this time because the holiday season is a time for joy, happiness and to get together with friends and family and I think this has been a very difficult year for anybody in our community and so I think we need the holiday season this year more than ever,” he said. “And it will be a great way to get together with members of the community in a safe and socially-distanced way while also enjoying all the beautiful decorations in our downtown.”