Organizers may have made changes to this year's Miracle on Main event due to COVID-19, but the pandemic means Zelienople's major holiday celebration is more important than ever.
The event's creator, Donna Ziegler, described the annual parade not as a way to usher in the commercial aspects of Christmas but a way to bring hope to the winter holidays.
“It's all about bringing hope for Christmas, especially this year more than ever,” Ziegler said. “We probably have given away over 400 coats in the past few years. This is the third year. And we've given away 20 living room sets to families in need, mostly single moms, which I think is amazing.”
Santa Claus, a Nativity scene, reindeer and carols will still be present, but the urgency to bring Miracle on Main to 2020 wasn't driven by the need to shop for stocking stuffers but rather by the need to brighten the extraordinarily dim year.
“Everyone agreed the most important part of this is the charity part, so we're doing all of the charity events,” Ziegler added.
Running the evenings of Dec. 3 and 4, and in the daytime on Dec. 5, Miracle on Main will bring many of the festivities that Zelienople residents have become accustomed to since it began in 2017, including Mrs. Claus waving to children, cookie decorating and live reindeer.
Of course, some changes will be made. The live reindeer and Nativity scene will be in Zelienople Community Park this year, and will be drive-thru events.
Following the county and state governments' leads, masks and social distancing will be required, no large gatherings will be permitted and stores will be required to obey occupancy limits.
Decorations of cookies will not happen on Main Street either.
“Instead, they're going to get an un-iced cookie with icing and sprinkles and everything to take home with them,” Ziegler noted. “We had to make some tweaks.”
The way Mrs. Claus greets children will also seem different, though similar, from how it's occurred in years past.
“Mrs. Claus with an elf will be at Spring on Main,” Ziegler said. “She'll be waving from inside to the children, and an elf will deliver cookies to take home.”
Christmas lights satisfy the sense of sight, cookies the sense of taste and the crisp winter air the senses of touch and smell. But the Main Street celebration wouldn't be complete without something to satiate the sense of hearing.
“We'll have different carolers and things like that up on the balcony of Kaufman Tavern at different times on Thursday night,” Ziegler said.
Although some changes are present, perhaps Miracle on Main's new three-day run will give Zelienople residents and travelers the opportunity to spread and enjoy Christmas cheer for thrice as long.
In addition to the celebratory events, the giveaway of free coats and the donation of a six-piece living room set to families in need, organizers also plan on giving backpacks full of food to children yet again.
“They told us stories of so many neglected children, mainly because of drugs, and these are things they can make themselves so they won't go hungry,” Ziegler said. “Especially now, when schools are not in and they can't get a hot lunch at school, we can make sure they get something nutritious.”
Ziegler acknowledged that Zelienople stores would likely still have a mini version of the now-annual celebration, but said the rush to plan the event will provide more opportunities for those in need to get the supplies — and the sense of hope — for which they are wanting.
“I'm pretty sure that, unless something drastic happens, there are changes but ... it should still happen,” she said. “We're trying to spread things out so we don't have so many people, and we've spread it out to Friday night and Saturday during the day as well.
“It took some work, but what we're trying to do is eliminate things that they think they'd absolutely say no to.”