Davis tree lighting ceremony transitions to virtual format due to COVID-19 restrictions

Davis tree lighting ceremony transitions to virtual format due to COVID-19 restrictions

Photo Credits: Mario Rodriguez / Aggie

Yolo County Public Information Officer urges residents to safely celebrate December holidays after expected surge in COVID-19 cases following Thanksgiving

The tree lighting ceremony has been a staple in the Davis community for years, but this year’s ceremony had to be adapted in order to comply with COVID-19 safety standards. Due to COVID-19 restrictions that prevent large gatherings, the tree lighting ceremony made a transition to a virtual format this year. 

Yolo County Management Analyst Carrie Dyer explained how the ceremony was pre-recorded and aired on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. Although there was not an actual in-person ceremony this year, the recording also included a few words from the mayor of Davis and featured performances from various performing arts groups.

“We obviously need to follow all COVID safety precautions—which means not gathering at all—but we wanted to still be able to provide people some holiday cheer,” Dyer said. “We worked together with different performing groups to be able to provide something that people might enjoy watching.”

Yolo County Public Information Officer Jenny Tan reflected on the necessity of this new format due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases from Nov. 23 to Nov. 30.

“We have had more than 600 cases of COVID in the last week, which is a huge number,” Tan said. “That’s almost 100 cases a day.”

Yolo County Public Relations Manager Bob Bowen described what the tree lighting ceremony was like in previous years. 

“The tree lighting ceremony is a longstanding Davis community tradition,” Bowen said. “It was festive and would draw thousands of people. That was what a normal year would look like.”

Tan provided further insight on her experience attending the ceremony in the past. 

“People would gather, people would eat, people would talk to each other,” Tan said. “It was just a really magical thing to have in your community.”

Bowen added that a candlelight parade would take place, spanning from the Davis Food Co-op to E Street Plaza. Groups of people would march in the parade, along with bikes, wagons, strollers and costumed mascots. Children would line up to take pictures with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, and horse and carriage rides would be available as well. 

“We want to keep people safe but still keep them connected as members of the community,” Bowen said. “We are doing the best we can and pivoting to keep the heart of the event alive as we move forward.”  

Dyer noted how normally, a stage would be set up in which various performing arts groups would perform such as music groups, choral groups and dance groups. The tree itself would be at E Street Plaza, and a countdown would occur before the actual lighting ceremony. 

Tan further urged for Davis residents to celebrate the upcoming holiday season in ways that comply with social distancing. She emphasized that there are numerous ways to celebrate the holidays in both a safe and creative manner. Instead of gathering in person, she encouraged virtual activities such as hosting a virtual holiday dinner, having a virtual gingerbread house decorating party and holding a virtual “ugly sweater contest.” 

“We’re definitely seeing a surge,” Tan said. “We’re definitely going to see the fallout from Thanksgiving, and we’ll likely see an increase in cases for Christmas as well.” 

“I think it’s really important this year that we take to heart that we are really trying to keep each other healthy,” Tan said. “The actions that we’re asking people to take are simple. We’re all giving up a little this year so that next year will be much better.”
Written By: Jelena Lapuz — city@theaggie.org