After decorating the Provost tree the night before with their father, Randy, sisters Isabella, from left, Alyssa and Emily Williams and their mother, Danielle, right, all of Auburn, decorated the final tree (Kora Crazy Cops Tree) on Thursday at the Kora Temple building on Sabattus Street in Lewiston for the annual FEZtival of Trees event. Due to COVID 19 restrictions, the festival will be held virtually this year. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Holiday celebrations in Lewiston and Auburn are getting the virtual treatment this year, as officials were forced to rethink traditional events.

In previous years, the two cities have partnered to host the “Twin Cities Holiday Celebration,” and have alternated hosting events like a holiday parade in the cities. But, with COVID-19 still very much an issue for public events, staff on both sides of the river are getting creative.

“We didn’t feel like having people line the streets to watch a parade would be safe,” said Dottie Perham-Whitter, Lewiston’s communications coordinator, so each city decided to plan smaller events that could still engage the community in some holiday cheer.

For Lewiston, that will mean a virtual “Santa Live” event at 6:30 p.m., Dec. 10.

Community Little Theatre is building a “Santa’s Workshop” set in the city council chambers, and the event will be filmed by Lewiston’s IT Department and broadcast on the city’s YouTube page.

Perham-Whittier said it might feel like an old-fashioned “fireside chat,” with Santa talking about Christmas, reading stories and letters from local children. He will also sing songs, and share cookie recipes from local bakeries.

The city is asking families to send in letters prior to the event, with some read aloud, and four families will be selected to interact directly with Santa Claus via a livestreamed “watch party.”

“We’re really encouraging this to be a time when families can come together and watch this together since its been such a challenging time in our community,” she said.

The broadcast will also feature a “reindeer cam,” with a live feed of reindeer and some family craft ideas.

Andy Allen and his daughter, Makenzie, of Auburn ride a tandem bicycle last year in Auburn during the Twin Cities Holiday Celebration parade. Lewiston and Auburn are rolling out new-look holiday events in 2020 due to COVID-19. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

In Auburn, a virtual tree lighting is to take place at 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, via Facebook Live.

According to Recreation Director Sabrina Best, the city is also planning a “reverse parade” or a holiday lights tour, where residents are encouraged to decorate their homes and interact with passers-by — from a distance — on designated nights.

The city will put together a parade map and route of those registering to decorate their homes, and for families interesting in seeing some holiday lights. Best said the first 25 households to register to have their home on the map will receive a “decorating starter kit.”

The tentative dates are Friday, Dec. 18, and Saturday, Dec, 19, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Beginning Dec. 4, Auburn will also begin taking letters to Santa, with a mailbox located in Pettengill Park, by the Hasty Community Center.

Best said kids are encouraged to write Santa a letter and include a return address so he can write them back.

The city is working on creating a “Holiday Hub,” which will lay out all of Auburn’s holiday offerings, including a gingerbread house competition.

In Lewiston, Perham-Whittier said the city is still developing other holiday-related activities, like a similar potential holiday decoration event to Auburn’s. The city has made an online form, and participants can register to decorate their home or business.

Letters to Santa in Lewiston can be sent to: Santa Live, c/o Lewiston City Administrator’s Office, Lewiston City Hall, 27 Pine St., Lewiston, ME 04240.

To register a business or home in the “we look festive” decoration event, click here.

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