Councilman Allen Axon, left, is joined by local resident Ryan Reeves as they and Mayor Sean Kelley, not shown, string lights on the tree.

“Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” and he’s coming to the Town of Dearing’s annual tree lighting at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4.

The Dearing Town Council voted in November to form a committee of two town council members and several citizens who would plan a scaled back version of the community’s yearly Christmas holiday event.

Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley said he and the committee have received positive feedback about the tree lighting, which he estimates is now on its 15th year.

“Everybody is glad we’re doing it,” Kelley said.

The committee has put in place various social distancing practices and other public health safety precautions due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the mayor said.

The tree lighting will be held outside on the Dearing Walking Track and organizers and volunteers will wear gloves and facial coverings when serving hot chocolate and individually bagged cookies.

Old Saint Nick will attend, but he will stand at a distance when interacting with children and is available for photos with parents’ permission.

Chris Graham with Fort Creek Baptist Church is running the soundboard and has arranged for the church’s children’s choir to perform, according to Kelley.

The entire event will be kept to a 30- to 45-minute duration, and attendees will be asked to line up single file when receiving food and drink, the mayor said. The public will also be discouraged from crowding around Santa this year, he added.

Kelley remembers the first tree lighting held 15 years ago. He said he expected only about 25 people to show and was surprised when about 75 people came.

Kelley said the town’s Christmas tree was donated by a nursery and planted years ago. The tree is now “a whopper,” and has had to be trimmed back several times, he said. Hillcrest Farms helps place decorations on poles in town and has donated the use of a bucket truck to decorate the town’s large Christmas tree, the mayor added.

The town council will next meet at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7 at the Dearing Community Center. The council will set its budget for 2021 at this meeting. Budget concerns include replacing roofs on Dearing Town Hall and the fire station.

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