Year in Review 2019

Kloey Auer, 9 and Noah Auer, 5, greet Santa during last year’s Winterfest.

Stricter restrictions announced by Gov. John Carney last week have forced the cancellation of two Christmas events planned by the Newark Parks and Recreation Department.

The events were designed with social distancing in mind, but are not feasible under the new guidelines. Indoor events, including weddings, church services, performances and political gatherings, are also limited to 30 percent capacity, with a maximum of 50 people. Outdoor gatherings are capped at 50 people, though organizers can seek permission to expand that to 250 by filing a plan with the Division of Public Health.

Holiday Hoopla, which was planned for Dec. 4, was intended as a socially distanced version of Newark’s annual Winterfest. Attendees were invited to stroll the James F. Hall Trail, where musicians, dance groups and other entertainment were to perform.

Just the performers alone added up to more than 50 people, and there was no reasonable way to control the flow of attendees, said Paula Ennis, deputy director of parks and recreation.

“We were so looking forward to it because it was going to be outside,” Ennis said. “We can’t safely stay within these guidelines.”

Also canceled is the annual Snack with Santa event at the George Wilson Center, which was set for Dec. 5. Officials had hoped to offer socially distanced photos with Santa and to-go snacks.

However, parks and rec is planning to set up the Christmas tree on the Academy Lawn next week as usual, though no official tree lighting ceremony is planned this year.

Officials are also encouraging residents and businesses to show their holiday spirit by decorating their houses. Participants can register at to be included in a map that will be distributed for people who want to take a driving tour around the city to see the lights.

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