Members of SCS-TV tape Parks and Recreation Director Henry Bowman during a virtual lighting ceremony at Blossom Heath Park Dec. 2.

Members of SCS-TV tape Parks and Recreation Director Henry Bowman during a virtual lighting ceremony at Blossom Heath Park Dec. 2.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Events get St. Clair Shores residents into holiday spirit in new ways

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 4, 2020

 Santa Claus makes an appearance during the tree lighting production.

Santa Claus makes an appearance during the tree lighting production.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 The tree lighting will be broadcast on the city’s cable TV station and put on its social media pages so residents can enjoy the ceremony safely.

The tree lighting will be broadcast on the city’s cable TV station and put on its social media pages so residents can enjoy the ceremony safely.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Santa Claus is coming to town, but he’s still maintaining his social distance.

The city, local organizations and residents are coming together to make the season bright, even with restrictions on gatherings and exhortations to stay physically apart from those outside of one household.

For the past 25 years, the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores has hosted the popular Santa Station at the Selinsky-Green Farmhouse Museum. But in the midst of a global pandemic, packing families together in the small historic home and having children hop on and off of Santa’s lap isn’t feasible.

“These kids are missing totally out on Santa,” said Debbie DePape, president of the club. “We have done the Selinsky-Greenhouse Santa Station for 25 years now and this would be the first year the kids are missing.”

That’s why the Optimists are offering a Drive-Thru Santa in the parking lot of Veterans Memorial Park, 32400 Jefferson Ave., from 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 12.

“It’s still providing them the opportunity to see the jolly old man and Mrs. Claus,” DePape said. “To give them their Christmas list.

“It’ll just be a real quick visit, but it will still give the kids an opportunity to be kids at Christmas.”

DePape said she hopes the drive-thru Santa will help cheer up the children this Christmas. One adult will be allowed to get out of the car and practice safe social distancing while taking a picture of the children in the vehicle interacting with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

“I think that, in itself, will become memorable,” she said. “We’re just hoping that families will be able to participate.”

The city of St. Clair Shores was working to make the holidays bright while containing crowds, as well.

The city filmed its Christmas tree lighting Dec. 2 in anticipation of posting it online later that week and airing it on SCS-TV.

“With the restrictions we’re having, we want to put something together (to) try and keep things normal as much as we can,” said Henry Bowman, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.

“The Activities Committee has been doing it for more than 30 years, so not to have the event is definitely a little sad, but we didn’t want to lose it,” said Mayor Kip Walby. “We’re trying to make the best of it with the taping and having Santa arrive (to) keep it going, at least the countdown and wishing everyone a merry Christmas.”

In addition to lighting up the night at City Hall and the Police Department complex at 11 Mile Road and Jefferson Avenue, there is also a brand-new light display at Blossom Heath Park, 24800 Jefferson Ave., with 40 illuminated arches spanning the walkway from the guard shack to the Beach House, 36 trees wrapped in holiday lights and 40 beacons in alternating green and red shades.

This is in addition to the lights already brightening Wahby Park’s bridge and trees. Those lights, as well as the new decorations at Blossom Heath, are made possible with funding from the Tax-Increment Finance Authority (TIFA), Bowman explained.

“TIFA was really a proponent of getting some lights down there,” Walby said. “We’ve had so much success with the bathhouse down there in 2020 and the events.”

He said a resident new to the city, Brent Skurda, suggested putting illuminated arches in the park to Bowman. Working with TIFA, Parks and Recreation and Paul Dopke of Landscape Services, the “tunnel” came together.

“It was a good collaboration,” Walby said. “It’s a nice feeling (to) bring a little bit of joy during a kind of time when we can’t get out a whole lot.”

Construction has begun on a fireplace inside the Beach House, Walby said, and igloos have been delivered as well. Two gas fire pits and a wood-burning fire pit will also be coming to the Beach House in the coming weeks and months, he explained.

“Winter is here and we don’t know how long this will last,” he said, referring to the COVID-19 virus and the ensuing government prohibitions on indoor drinking, dining and large gatherings. “We’re going to keep plunging forward, so we can get people out and enjoy it and plan for 2021.”

He said the St. Clair Shores Hockey Association also provided funds to purchase some speakers for the park, so Christmas carols are playing from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night at Blossom Heath Park, with the lights on until about 10 p.m.

Blossom Heath Park will also be the site of an outdoor Christmas Holiday Craft Show Dec. 13. Bowman said many crafters asked the city to do something since they were missing out on all the usual shows at local schools, which were largely canceled due to COVID-19.

“They’re missing out on this income, also,” he said.

The show is planned for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will include about 50 crafters, food trucks, hot cocoa and coffee, and DJ music, Bowman said.

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