Like many traditions in 2020, the 35th annual Dover Christmas tree lighting will be quite different this year.

Instead of the usual style of events at Henry Law Park, the City of Dover is planning to hold a virtual tree lighting they hope will give residents some semblance of normalcy as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to stay active throughout the New Hampshire Seacoast.

"We're working on having a tree and having that tree lighted," Dover City Manager Michael Joyal told Seacoast Current, "as we do every year."

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Joyal admitted there will be some logistical challenges in turning the event virtual, such as capturing the strong sense of community associated with the event, which generally involves residents decorating the tree, singing and visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Joyal believes the best way to achieve those goals is to pre-produce the event, rather than broadcast it live.

"I believe what we're going to do is just get the tree set up, get it lighted, and then do some sort of video with voiceover," Joyal said. "One of the things (about the event) is that the spirit of the tree talks to the families so we'll probably get some voiceover for the tree talking on the video to the kids. Santa Claus might pop in to the video, too, to say hi to the children."

Still, the city is holding a Festival of Trees on December 4 at Rivermill at Dover Landing where folks can have a chance to win one of 30 trees sponsored and decorated by local businesses and organizations. However, the city is controlling the number of people inside the venue, requiring pre-registration for a chance to participate in-person, and masks must be worn at all times inside the venue. Those who can't attend will still be able to purchase raffle tickets. Other trees will be auctioned.

Joyal also confirmed the city's annual holiday parade, traditionally held the Sunday after Thanksgiving, will not take place.

"There's really not a way to allow people to social distance as they crowd along the sidewalks," Joyal said.

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