By Katie Johnson
The City of Melbourne’s annual Christmas Festival will help bring Melbourne back to life with a range of COVID-safe events and enter- tainment for all ages.
From socially-distanced photos with Santa to a Christmas-themed picnic area at Argyle Square, the 2020 festival will run from November 27 to December 25 with the help of the $100 million Melbourne City Recovery Fund.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said that this year’s festivities would encourage Melburnians to safety rediscover the city and support local businesses.
“Christmas is not cancelled in 2020,” the Lord Mayor said.
“I am absolutely delighted to announce this program of Christmas offers and events that will be irresistible in enticing people back into the city for their Christmas shopping, celebrations and family traditions.”
The festival will kick off on Black Friday with the “Shop the City” event which will run in partnership with Melbourne Fashion Week.
The Lord Mayor said the four-day shopping festival would provide an opportunity to sup- port local businesses while taking advantage of great deals and enjoying the Christmas events.
“It’s been a challenging year for retailers, and residents across Melbourne can show their sup- port by shopping local in the city, and enjoying the pop-up street runways, food and drinks, freebies and music while they’re at it.”
Last year the festival generated more than $64 million to the city’s economy and the council is predicting city retailers will enjoy a much-needed boost again this year.
One way this will be achieved is through the Christmas Collective business grant initiative which supports 24 events throughout the city.
These include Christmas markets in Docklands, the 12 films of Christmas at Kino Cinemas, and “A Very Victorian Christmas” which will celebrate local producers and wine- makers at a pop-up cellar door at Garden State Hotel.
To get into the Christmas spirit, the city will also light up with Christmas projections, including a “Thank You” to the city’s frontline workers at the State Library Victoria.
Christmas Square will again pop up at Federation Square, with a 16-metre tall Christmas tree adorned with 30,000 energy efficient lights and a COVID-safe Santa’s work- shop.
The Lord Mayor said protocols would be in place to ensure families could meet Santa in a socially-distanced way.
“Everybody will be able to tell Santa what they want for Christmas, walk around the workshop and take photographs, but you won’t be sitting on Santa’s lap,” the Lord Mayor said.
To avoid large crowds and queues, this year’s festival is “always on” instead of having events on at specific times.
“Whenever you turn up, we’re offering as range of events than are always on so we can avoid queues and ensure people don’t feel pressured to come into large, crowded environ- ments,” the Lord Mayor said.
“We are also holding most events outside to make it more COVID-safe.”
Along with old favourites, the city has also organised new events including Deck the Streets, which will see Melbourne-based artists paint a series of festive murals in Hosier Lane, Carlton, North Melbourne and Kensington.
One featured artist is CBD News Street Art columnist Adrian Doyle, who said that street art was a great way to express the Christmas spirit in a uniquely Melbourne way.
“It’s outdoors, you can bring your kids and enjoy the city and all the Christmas artwork it has to offer,” Mr Doyle said.
Argyle Square in Lygon St will also be trans- formed into a Christmas-themed picnic area in partnership with Piazza di Natale, and there will be a range of augmented reality experienc- es displayed throughout the city.
The Lord Mayor said that as the city ended a difficult year, Melburnians deserved to come together and celebrate Christmas with the ones they loved.