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story.lead_photo.caption FILE: From left, Shiloh Shafer, 11, Allison Wilbers, 10, and Samara Nyatanga, 11, with Safety Kids, sing in the Midwest Travel window during the 2019 Downtown Living Windows event. Photo by Sally Ince / News Tribune.

A Jefferson City holiday season tradition of more than 30 years has become the latest victim of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Downtown Living Windows event, which has been bringing thousands of visitors to the downtown area since 1988, has been canceled for 2020 due to concerns around the virus.

Downtown Association secretary Angela Nale said the decision was not easy for the board to make.

"It was honestly heartbreaking," Nale said. "It was not something we wanted to do. How do you cancel something like that?"

Despite trying to find solutions to issues of social distancing, the large event was going to be too difficult to make safe. Nale said they spoke with Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin and the Cole County Health Department, and while the Health Department didn't say no, they weren't encouraging the event.

"You're torn. You're so sad to do it, and you want to give the community something to do," Nale said. "But do you keep the community safe? It's got to be safety first."

Nale said the biggest concerns were about how many people may attend, with crowds in previous years filling the downtown area and shops.

People would typically want to go inside stores to warm up and shop, which would put the shop owners in the position of either too many people inside or having to monitor how many people they allow in.

"There were just too many things to worry about, so to be on the safe side, we chose to make that decision," Nale said. "Living Windows will be back in 2021, bigger and better than ever."

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Tergin said it is disappointing, but it makes sense to cancel the event. She encouraged residents to support local businesses during the holidays.

Another downtown holiday event, Sip N' Shop, will be postponed.

Originally scheduled for Nov. 7, Nale said they chose to move Sip N' Shop to coincide with Mother's Day weekend in May 2021.

The Mayor's Christmas Tree Lighting on Dec. 3 is set to be held as a virtual event, instead of a public lighting like in previous years, Tergin said.

The tree will be in place at Rotary Park on Bolivar Street as normal, but the lighting ceremony will only be available to watch online.

Tergin said they are still formalizing plans about how members of the public can interact with the tree over the rest of the holiday season.

As of Thursday, the Jefferson City Jaycees Christmas Parade is still scheduled for Dec. 5, Jaycees President Chelsea Hite said.

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