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Norfolk's annual Grand Illumination celebration looked different this year

Downtown Norfolk Grand Illumination Celebration looked different this year due to COVID-19 safety restrictions.

NORFOLK, Va. — The Downtown Norfolk Grand Illumination Parade was cancelled for the first time in 36 years due to COVID-19 pandemic safety measures. New activities were created to replace the event, and they brought thousands of people to Granby Street Saturday night.

Downtown Norfolk Council staff members made it possible for families to see Santa Claus, but it looked a lot different. Children waved and talked to Santa behind a fence created to comply with social distancing regulations. 

Families that come every year know how COVID-19 changed the celebration.

Robin Samuel’s son is a member of The Rhythm Project Band. Samuel said they usually play before the parade, but not this year. 

“I’m glad they’re still doing a little bit of different activities so people can still come and try to enjoy it, try to make it as normal as possible with the circumstances," said Samuel. 

Norfolk small businesses and restaurants were open. Todd Rosenlieb Dance Studio gave out free hot chocolate and cupcakes to boost the holiday spirit.

“It’s so important that we make sure people keep their spirits up and make sure they celebrate the holidays as they should safely," said the owner, Todd Rosenlieb. 

At the MacArthur On Ice skating rink, workers sanitized handrails. Jessica Shaw, visiting from the Outer Banks with her family kept her holiday spirits up by enjoying some ice skating.

"I mean it’s definitely different, but we’re just going with the flow, coming out here having fun," said Shaw.

"The mask is not stopping us from skating around so it’s definitely not as busy, but on the ice, it’s kind of nice."

Downtown Norfolk Council has created several other activities to experience throughout the holiday season. For more information about the new events, click here

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