OKEECHOBEE — Due to suggested COVID-19 precautions, the Okeechobee City Council has decided not to hold the annual tree lighting event in the park. Normally, local school children attend and sing Christmas carols, Santa Claus visits the children in City Hall and refreshments are served, but this year this is just not considered safe.
“The consensus of council was never intended to limit or preclude any members of the public to attend the event, just to be respectful of the suggested precautions of Covid-19,” said City Administrator Marcos Montes de Oca. “The city didn’t feel as though a large crowd was appropriate and combined with no singing from elementary schools, no holiday snacks, and no visit from Santa the event in its past form for this year could in essence, sadly, not occur.”
On Sunday morning, a post was made on the city’s Facebook page in an attempt to let the public know what was going on, but there was an immediate outcry, and the post was removed.
This year, the holiday lights will just be flipped on before the council meeting on Tuesday night. There will be no event at all, no Santa visit, no refreshments.
Lake Okeechobee News shared the city of Okeechobee’s original post about the tree lighting ceremony which mentioned only allowing the families of city employees to attend the lighting of the tree to reduce crowds and allow for social distancing. Although the post was removed, readers are still commenting on the post with some saying that everyone has a right to just show up at a public park. Others expressed feelings that the city employees were privileged.
Montes de Oca said their intention was just to let people know what was going on, but it went the wrong way. “It was never our intention to exclude anyone.”
With the COVID-19 restrictions and precautions in place, it makes it difficult for those in charge to make decisions. When they cancel events, they are accused of being overly cautious. When they allow events to go on as usual, they are accused of not taking enough precautions. When they attempt to take a middle ground, they still find themselves angering someone.
After the year we have all had, now might be a great time to remember the words to the song written by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”