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Norfolk’s annual Great Illumination celebration kicked off on Saturday

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The Great Illumination celebration of downtown Norfolk looked different this year due to security restrictions from COVID-19.

NORFOLK, Virginia. The Downtown Norfolk Grand Illumination Parade has been canceled for the first time in 36 years due to security measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. New activities were created to replace the event and they brought thousands of people to Granby Street on Saturday evening.

The staff at the Downtown Norfolk Council allowed families to see Santa Claus, but it was very different. The kids waved and talked to Santa behind a fence created to comply with social distancing regulations.

The families who come each year know how COVID-19 has changed the celebration.

Robin Samuels’ 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 keep doing a little different activities so that people can always come and try to enjoy it, try to make it as normal as possible with the circumstances, ”Samuel said.

Norfolk’s small businesses and restaurants were open. Todd Rosenlieb Dance Studio gave away free hot chocolate and cupcakes to stimulate the holiday spirit.

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

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

“I mean it’s really different, but I was just going with the flow, coming in here having fun,” Shaw said.

“The mask doesn’t stop us from skating, so it’s definitely not that busy, but on the ice it’s pretty cool.”

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

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