Santa Claus won’t be coming to town this year.
The City of Maple Ridge Christmas Convoy has officially been cancelled. So have photos with Santa at the Valley Fair Mall.
Santa was supposed to take part in a 10-vehicle Christmas Convoy on Dec. 5.
The convoy was expected to start downtown at 6 p.m. and visit surrounding neighbourhoods for about one hour.
But, just as soon as it was announced, the city had to call it off.
The Santa Claus parade is one of the most popular events in Maple Ridge and the social media reaction to the Christmas Convoy was substantial,” said Yvonne Chui, recreation manager arts and community connection with the City of Maple Ridge.
However, she said, the city received notice from Public Health on Monday, Nov. 30, that is was considered an event with risk of crowds gathering.
“The cancellation is a disappointment to residents and organizers but the safety of everyone is of utmost importance,” noted Chui, adding that there are no plans to reschedule the convoy if the latest order from the Provincial Health Officer is lifted.
“Very sad,” said Nicole Archer, manager of ValleyFair Mall about having to put a halt to their plans.
“I was fully prepared to roll it out on Saturday. I had everything ready to go. Santa was here getting sorted,” explained Archer.
But when she saw that other shopping centres across the region were scrapping their Santa photo plans, she thought she better call Fraser Health.
And, Fraser Health told her the directives were clear – that there is to be no indoor holiday events.
Archer had already spent $1,500 on Plexiglas installed between Santa and visiting children and even built a new set to keep the public and Santa safe. There were going to be other protocols in place as well including: having to book an online appointment ahead of time to eliminate lineups; time in between each visit to clean the set; they changed the set from Santa’s cabin to a toy workshop in order to put a large workshop table between Santa and the children; limiting the number of people allowed on the set to a four person maximum; and mandatory mask wearing until the photo.
“Although we had created a very safe Santa Photo experience for our customers, we (and all Shopping Centres) have been directed by the Fraser Health Authority to cancel our Photos with Santa, due to the latest provincial health orders regarding indoor holiday activities,” read an apology on the mall’s website, where refunds are promised for anyone who booked a reservation fee.
“This is where we shine at this time of year and we love to provide this for the community,” said Archer.
The set will be left up in the weeks leading up to Christmas for patrons of the mall to enjoy.
“We’re all very disappointed that that’s the way it is but hopeful that maybe with everybody doing their part that we’ll maybe see Santa come visit us,” added Archer, who is still hoping that if the number of new COVID-19 cases decline then restrictions might be lifted and they could bring Santa in for maybe the final week or two.