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Light Up Ocala canceled this year by COVID-19. Is the Christmas parade next?

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Ocala will have its lights on the Downtown Square this year but not the traditional Light Up Ocala. Photo: City of Ocala via Facebook

Light Up Ocala is canceled this year because the large crowds at the seasonal celebration would not allow for social distancing.

But Ocala will have its downtown lights and a series of Holiday Happenings, including outdoor movies, live music and Santa events.

Mayor Kent Guinn stood alone in opposing the new approach Tuesday night. He said people could make their own decisions about safety.

“We’re somewhat doing the same thing here, just a different venue with different events,” he said.

Assistant City Manager Ken Whitehead said the big difference is duration — the time over which 10,000 to 15,000 visit downtown during the pandemic.

“The Health Department’s primary concern in regards to this is just the density of the crowd and the lack of social distancing,” Whitehead said. “We have a better opportunity to social distance if we have people spread out over six or eight weeks as opposed to four or five hours.”

Holiday Happenings include outdoor movies and storytelling, festive gift-giving and a holiday lunch for seniors.

There’ll be a bunch of Santa events, too, including Santa on the Square. But this year the children won’t whisper in his ear. They will visit from several feet away.

Next, on Nov. 17, the City Council will decide the fate of this year’s Ocala Christmas Parade.

The city will apply the same Phase 3 criteria from the governor in deciding whether to cancel the parade. It is currently planned for Dec. 12.


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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.