1209_dnr_Winter Wonderfest_1

Carolers from the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir make a stop at Shenandoah Bicycle Co. during the 2017 Winter Wonderfest in downtown Harrisonburg.

Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and the Friendly City Merchants are staging a winter-themed festival that’ll feature a flurry of fun events for the whole family.

With a twilight tree lighting, carolers and a live Nativity, downtown’s annual Winter Wonderfest features festive and homey elements reminiscent of scenes from a Hallmark Christmas movie, organized by the city’s downtown engagement organization and a collaborative of retailers.

“It’s just a fun day that we’re building up around small businesses. We want to build community but also build up our small businesses,” said Andrea Dono, HDR executive director.

Winter Wonderfest will take place Dec. 11 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The event designed to draw customers to businesses has snowballed into a holiday extravaganza featuring carolers, sleigh rides, a Christmas movie and more. With activities happening at numerous locations, the day is designed with activities throughout that allow for social distancing, according to event organizers.

Special events of the day include the Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham’s fourth annual Santa Run Walk N’ Roll, a wheelchair-inclusive fun run that’ll begin at 11 a.m. and end at noon.

Also at 11 a.m., visitors may choose to attend a live Nativity at Asbury United Methodist Church or a reading of a local play at Court Square Theater. Later at the theater, there will be a 2 p.m. free performance by Dance & Co and a 4 p.m. showing of the Christmas movie “Elf,” which is free to attend with a downtown shopping receipt.

From 6:30 to 8 p.m., Spencer Hatcher will perform at Court Square. The night will cap off at 7:45 p.m., with the Harrisonburg High School Marching Blue Streaks marching band guiding attendees to the annual tree-lighting ceremony, which will start at 8 p.m. and is organized by the Harrisonburg Parks and Recreation Department.

“Being able to bring our community together and provide families with a safe, fun festivity like this is at the heart of Parks & Rec’s mission,” Matt Little, special events manager, said in a press release.

There is no holiday parade this year due to COVID-19 pandemic safety measures. However, from 6 to 8 p.m., there will be parade floats stationed at different spots downtown, so community members can see the floats in a more socially distanced way.

“We hope to just provide an opportunity for people who want to come and see those floats close up to do so,” said Michael Parks, director of communications for the city. “We’re just trying to [offer] things that people can be a part of [to the extent] that they feel comfortable.”

There are several events visitors can opt to do at their leisure throughout the day. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., there will be a cookie tour, where downtown locales will offer special Christmas cookies to collect, horse-drawn sleigh rides at Court Square, winter fairy makeup at withSimplicity, roving Christmas carolers and a gingerbread house decorating contest with the Harrisonburg Homes Team.

“There will also be [Christmas characters] roving around downtown with caroling groups. We’ll have people dressed up in various costumes. I think we’ve had the Grinch in the past,” Dono said.

Photos with Santa will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. at the shoe shine station near the Court Square Theater lobby. From 6:30 to 10 p.m., Downtown Light Spectacular will be a battle of the window displays, with votes cast for the merriest shop window. There will be a selfie station for documenting the day at Denton Park during the whole day.

In addition to downtown shopping, the event will feature numerous pop-ups for craft vendors offering Christmas gifts and other crafts. There will be holiday markets featuring crafts from local artisans at Turner Pavilion from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Sage Bird Ciderworks from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and at the Perch from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Massanutten Regional Library Central Branch will offer a holiday bookstore and activities in the children’s department from noon to 4 p.m. From 12:15 to 4 p.m., local students will be performing in the library’s atrium.

Winter Wordfest, featuring book signing with a handful of local authors, will take place from 1 to 7:30 p.m. at 41 Court Square.

Dono directed visitors to the Wonderfest webpage at downtownharrisonburg.org/winter-wonderfest/ for more information, to view the full list of events and to register for the different events.

Contact Jillian Lynch at 574-6274 or jlynch@dnronline.com. Follow Jillian on Twitter @lynchjillian_

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