January 20, 2022

Have yourself a COVID-safe holiday

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Marina Gorelaya, of Homer, walks past the Nativity scene at the Homer Village Green on Friday afternoon. A Christmas tree lighting ceremony, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. next Friday at the Village Green, is among the COVID-19-friendly events this holiday season.

It’s been nearly two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as vaccination rates continue to rise, some holiday traditions have returned this season while others have been altered to fit COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Across Cortland County, residents can expect Christmas tree lightings, Santa Claus sightings, bells ringing and choirs singing. Here are a few COVID-friendly events to keep in mind while planning your family’s holiday celebrations:

Masked Performances

Cortland County children are set to perform again this holiday season with a masked concert at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Homer Center for the Arts. The Center Wassailers, a community chorus of adults and children, are to take the holiday stage this year. The Homer Youth Orchestra of string instrumentalists in grades 5 through 12 plan to share their songs, as well.

“After weekly lessons since October, students are excited to share some of the songs they’ve learned!” according to the Homer Center for the Arts.

A masked Christmas bell concert is scheduled at 3 p.m. Dec. 5 at the United Presbyterian Church of Cortland at 25 Church St. The Whitechapel Ringers will perform and a church announcement advertises attendees to: “Please come enjoy the return of our favorite ding-a-lings!”

Both concerts are free, but donations are welcome.

Cortland Fire Dept.

The Cortland Fire Department and the Cortland Youth Bureau are teaming up again this year to give Santa Claus a ride to the homes of city boys and girls.

“Here comes Santa!” firefighters announced on the Cortland Fire Department Facebook page. “A COVIDfriendly visit from Santa and the Cortland Fire Department right to your door!”

Last year, Santa Claus contacted firefighters asking for help getting around during COVID, firefighters said.

“Santa Claus had sent me a letter and asked me if I could find a way to not go door to door,” Firefighter Mark Schroeder told the Cortland Standard in 2020.

Families who would like to invite Kris Kringle’s fire truck to stop at their home can register with the Cortland Youth Bureau at cortlandyb.recdesk.com/. Registration began Friday and households are encouraged to sign up early as Santa’s busy schedule fills up fast.

Tree Lightings

For many families, it doesn’t feel like Christmas until decorations are up and the Christmas trees are lit. If you missed the city of Cortland’s Christmas tree lighting last week, don’t worry. At 6:30 p.m. Friday, residents are invited to visit the Homer Village Green for the annual Christmas tree lighting and to read the names on the Light of My Life hospice memory boards.

“It is so clear that community events such as this are very much needed events,” said Barb Closson, president of the Hospice Foundation of Cortland County. “Holiday time is a hard time for families who have lost loved ones — whether it was due to COVID or not, it’s hard. It gives the Cortland County community an opportunity to gather for support.”

After the tree is lit, the Fingerlakes Saxophone Quartet will perform at the gazebo. Santa will make an appearance and refreshments from Sinfully Sweet will be provided by the village of Homer’s Parks and Recreation Department.

At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Santa Claus will visit the Dryden Village Green to light the community Christmas tree. At 5 p.m. on Dec. 11, the Lamont Memorial Free Library in McGraw will light its tree, and families are welcome to participate in games, eat cookies and drink cocoa while listening to music provided by the McGraw JuniorSenior Chorus.

Visit a Christmas Tree Farm

Living in Upstate New York has its perks, including picking out your own Christmas tree. Strolling through the tree farm is a great outdoor activity for families looking to get some fresh air, and social distancing won’t be a problem. A few farms are offering more than just their fresh firs — at Dog Hollow Farm in Cuyler there will be sleigh rides, and Santa Claus will be visiting the Roberts Family Tree Farm in Groton next weekend.

Area Christmas tree sales locations include:

  • Dog Hollow Farm, 5932 Dog Hollow Road in Cuyler. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Sleigh rides by Togg View Farms will be offered on Dec. 5 and 12 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Hill of Beans Christmas Tree Farm, 5405 Chapman Road in Virgil. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 12.
  • Honeysuckle Hill, 106 McLean Road in Cortlandville. Call 607-838-1402 for more information.
  • Lime Hollow Nature Center on McLean Road in Cortlandville is selling trees 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. To visit on a weekday between 2:30 and 5 p.m., call 607-6624632 to make an appointment.
  • Moore Tree Farm, 575 Auburn Road in Groton. Open through Dec. 19, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays.
  • Pitman’s Tree Farm in Lapeer is open on weekends and is offering pre-cut trees or you can chop it down yourself. Call 607745-4667 for more information.
  • The Roberts Family Christmas Tree Farm, 782 Clark St. Ext. in Groton. Open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, through Dec. 12. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be visiting the farm on Dec. 5.

Christmas in Dryden

The Southworth Library in Dryden has a whole day of events planned for Saturday, from crafts to stories with Santa, Christmas carols and the annual tree lighting.

Most of the events will be outdoors, where families can spread out. Unvaccinated guests are asked to wear a mask when inside, and everyone is encouraged to register for the events on the library’s website so staff knows how many people to expect.

“More than ever, we need things that bring the community together in a festive and celebratory way,” said library Director Diane Pamel. “There are so many things that have happened over the last couple of years, not just COVID. I think it’s important for people to have something to do that’s light and happy while seeing their neighbors.”

On Saturday:

  • 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Craft Fair at Dryden Agway
  • 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Open House and Ornament Kits with the Dryden Historical Society at the Southworth Homestead
  • p.m. Santa will be at the Southworth Library to read children’s books. Crafts and snacks will be available.
  • 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Make s’mores with the Town of Dryden’s Recreation Department at Time Square.
  • 5 p.m. Watch a live nativity Christmas story and sing carols at the Presbyterian Church in Dryden
  • 5:30 p.m. Join friends and neighbors on the Dryden Village Green to see Santa light the Christmas tree. Afterward, Santa will draw the winners of the DC3 Photo Scavenger Hunt contest.