Parks and Rec welcomes Santa to pocket park, Dec. 19

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The Monticello Parks and Recreation Department, along with the Austin Strong Foundation, are hosting a family-friendly, COVID-safe holiday event in downtown Monticello.

     On Saturday, Dec. 19, Santa Claus will be in the downtown pocket park where boys and girls can come for social-distanced photos and selfies with Santa.

     “Feel free to take your own pictures,” encouraged Parks and Rec Director Jacob Oswald.

     The event runs from 4 to 7 p.m., encouraging families to come down and enjoy the holiday light display inside the pocket park. Parks and Rec also set up lights around the Aquatic Center and Fountain Park, as well as Riverside Gardens.

     Aside from seeing Santa, families can enjoy hot chocolate, coffee, and treats provided by Mission Cup Coffee owner Jenn Jones of Monticello. The public is asked to make a free-will donation, with all of the proceeds going toward the Austin Smith (inclusive) Playground Project.

     There will also be a take-home arts and crafts project for kids to make a Christmas wreath at home and either keep or give away to a family member.

     “We only have 30 kits on a first-come, first-served basis,” warned Parks and Rec Superintendent Shannon Poe.

     For those making homemade Christmas cards, there will be a drop-off box at the pocket park. All of the cards will be donated to residents at the Monticello Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

     Parks and Rec is still taking applications for the residential and business lighting contest. The $20 entry fee will also go toward the inclusive playground project.

     Oswald said Parks and Rec hopes to expand their holiday event into a larger community event in years to come.

     “With COVID and everything this year, we chose to dial it back and start out small,” he said. “We want to limit the number of people congregating, and we thought the pocket park was the best place to do it.”

     A community holiday event is something the Park Board has been thinking about for some time over the last couple of years.

     “A lot of Parks and Recs in other communities do something like this,” said Poe. “It helps to keep people engaged during the winter season.”

     Oswald said the ultimate goal is to collaborate with other groups and organizations in Monticello and grow the event.

     Having lived in Waverly for several years, Oswald recalled their city shutting down several blocks of the downtown area for an annual Christmas festival.

     “It was always cool to see,” he said.

     With the lighting contest, Parks and Rec hope it attracts people from outside of Monticello to tour the community.

     “We want this to be a big, friendly competition, even among businesses,” Oswald urged.


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