Virtual Christmas Cheer

Highland Park, University Park take annual tree-lighting festivities online

The holidays will look different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t have to mean skipping Christmas cheer for those willing to embrace the virtual.

Both the city of University Park and the town of Highland Park chose to take their annual tree lighting ceremonies online.

“Because of COVID, we knew that we could not gather that many people together and count on everyone wearing a mask and being socially distant,” Highland Park Mayor Margo Goodwin told officials with Highland Park ISD, Highland Park, University Park, and Dallas during a recent virtual meeting.

“We’ve got some creative ideas,” she said, providing few details. “We’ll kick it off the day after Thanksgiving, and it will run all the way up to the actual tree lighting virtually on a special website that will be accessed, and the community can add things to this website, children can sing songs, make posters – we’ve got several things planned.”

“Because of COVID, we knew that we could not gather that many people together and count on everyone wearing a mask and being socially distant.”

Mayor Margo Goodwin

Highland Park Department of Public Safety public information officer Lance Koppa said Goodwin and a special guest would light the tree Dec. 3 at

The virtual version of the annual Snider Plaza Christmas tree lighting may have already happened by the time you receive this paper. Plans included having a young resident, who hadn’t been named at press time, help light the tree with Mayor Tommy Stewart.

Instead of the usual afternoon-long parking lot festival, plans included a drive-through toy donation collection benefiting the Salvation Army from 4-6 p.m. Nov. 22, an opportunity to wave at the UPFD Fire Engine with Santa on board, a taped performance of holiday songs by Highland Park ISD’s Lads and Lassies, and a virtual broadcast beginning at 5 p.m. with the tree lighting at 6 p.m.

But not all celebrating will go online.

Highland Park Village’s Christmas Lights Celebration and Shopping Stroll will go on despite the pandemic.

The one-evening-only event from 4-7 p.m. Dec. 9 will feature exclusive store promotions, festive treats, and community charity partners like the Salvation Army and S.M. Wright Foundation.

Attendees will be able to give back during the event via the Salvation Army’s bell ringers, S.M. Wright Foundation‘s Christmas in the Park toy drive, and a Jingle Bell Mistletoe pop-up benefiting the North Texas Food Bank.

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Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at [email protected]

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