Details have been announced for how the largest holiday lighting display in New England will go on this year with COVID-19 safety protocols in place.
"Not even the coronavirus could put our amazing holiday light show to the dark," said Spirit of Springfield President Judy Matt.
The pandemic may not have turned out the lights of Bright Nights at Forest Park – the three-mile long drive-through lighting event in Springfield’s largest park – but it will change the experience.
For the 2020 season there are several changes, announced Matt. These include online ticketing only, no hayrides in the park, no visits with Santa, and visitors can’t buy snacks or hot chocolate or a souvenir from the gift shop.
"Everything we are doing is in an effort to comply with all the regulations by both the city and the state," said Matt.
To keep with the current statewide stay-at-home advisory, the admission gates will close at 8:45 p.m. so that visitors and staff can leave the park by 9:30 p.m.
" In the 25 years we've been open, we've never had to stop anyone from coming in," said Matt.
With the prospect that a lot of holiday traditions including family gatherings will have to be curtailed this year, Bright Nights is a gift, said Dr. Robert Roose, Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Medical Center, which is one of the sponsors of the event.
" This event is a quintessential example of what we would call a safer holiday event," said Roose. "This is about as pandemic-friendly as one could imagine."
Bright Nights will be open from November 25th through January 6, 2021 with daily hours of 4:45 p.m.- 8:45 p.m.
On November 30th admission will be free for frontline workers – people who had to physically show up to their jobs during the pandemic in essential industries including healthcare, childcare, grocery store, and transportation.
"We wanted to recognize thier selfless service during this pandemic with a small token of our affection and gratitude for their service during these difficult times," said Matt.
She said frontline workers will need to simply show a company identification to gain admission.
Sandra Sheehan, administrator of the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, said the staff is grateful to Spirit of Springfield.
" All the drivers and everybody else are so excited to be part of that day," said Sheehan.
Another seasonal event produced by Spirit of Springfield, the Parade of Big Balloons held on the Friday after Thanksgiving in downtown Springfield, is not happening this year.
The Bright Nights 5K Road Race is also not taking place.