MALONE — It wasn’t anything like past years.
Ben Bashaw co-founded the first Santa in the Park event with Mark Tredo, 34 years ago.
“There used to be so many kids, you couldn’t even move in this park,” Bashaw said, while reminiscing of the years the event was still in its infancy.
Through those holiday seasons, Bashaw never had to greet families while showing them a “six-feet apart” caution sign. The Chamber of Commerce used to be able to encourage people to huddle close together for warmth. And Bashaw never needed to wear a mask to the event. But on Saturday, the smile he’d flash at families almost every year, needed to be bundled behind a mask.
The novel coronavirus pandemic put a different spin on the family gathering this year. But despite this, the Chamber of Commerce did what it could do to keep the holiday cheer rolling.
Santa and Mrs. Claus, who were given a lift by the fire department over to the gazebo across from the police station, couldn’t allow children to sit on their lap. Though the Kringle couple was not deterred from using the gazebo’s structure as a perch to wave at the families, while the children used a bench to sit six-feet away to tell them their Christmas wishes.
Although he is no longer a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Bashaw said he’s always enjoyed this event because it’s been “something for the kids to look forward to, at Christmas time.”
The families were asked to enter the park through its Elm Street side. There, children were offered wrapped gift bags, containing treats such as gloves, coloring books, candy canes and pencils. The 200 or so presents were donated by the International Border Company.
Event co-chair Alexandra Sprague said Malone’s Chamber of Commerce, although having received some safety concerns from residents leading up to the event, tried to enforce a 10-feet distance in line, in order to safely allow families to group together.
“We’re glad we were able to have it this year and we’re glad that people are abiding by the guidelines,” Sprague said.
The event was split into four separate half-hour time slots between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Section one included people who live west of Elm Street and north of Route 11. Section two involved homes east of Elm Street and north of Route 11. Section three was made up of residents west of Pearl Street and south of Route 11 and section four was for people living ast of Pearl Street and south of Route 11.
“We did our best to keep the same amount” of people from last year “in a safe way,” event co-chair Tim Lamay, Jr. said.