Forget the Grinch.

If anyone steals Christmas in 2020, it’ll be a nasty little microbe called COVID-19.

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Jordan Braudrick, 8, prepares to turn on the lights for the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival in 2018 as Santa Clause counts down.

If the Denton Holiday Lighting Festival Association has anything to say about it, though, Denton will have its annual holiday lighting on Dec. 4. Though, the time and activities aren’t totally nailed down.

“It’s really important that it’s clear that we’re not having an in-person event,” said Michelle Boerst, president of the festival association. “This is going to be a virtual lighting.”

Thanks to COVID-19 — which is expected to persist as Denton County enters its annual flu season — the Holiday Lighting Festival is still on, but in flux.

“We’re thinking about a drive-up event, with Santa in the snow globe, so people can come get a picture with him. And we might have some carolers standing and singing while people drive through,” Boerst said. “We are planning to have a grab bag of items that kids can take with them to make crafts.”

The festival debuted a life-size snow globe last year. Attendees stepped inside to pose for photos. This year, Santa will be in the globe and visitors can pose outside for a photo.

One thing is for sure about this year’s festival, though.

“We don’t want people to think they need to or have to come to the Square and gather,” Boerst said.

A lot of locals compare the Holiday Lighting Festival on the Square to a Norman Rockwell painting. It features lots of twinkling lights and a bright Christmas tree, the Denton Community Band leading the crowd in a Christmas carol sing-along.

Families gather at the main stage to watch school music groups perform holiday tunes, and members of the Festival Ballet of North Central Texas line up to perform portions of The Nutcracker. Attendees shop the stores on and around the square, First United Methodist Church hosts “Evening In Bethlehem” and local businesses ladle up their own wassail recipes for a contest.

Brooke Moore, a member of the festival association, said the group is still discussing the lighting itself.

“We’re going to have some kind of 6 p.m. switch-flip, but we’re not sure how it’s going to go. We’ve talked about maybe inviting people to come to the drive-up between 2 and 5 p.m., then go home to watch the virtual lighting.”

Boerst said the association is working on making the event interactive.

“We’re talking about maybe asking people to turn their lights on when we flip the switch,” Boerst said.

“We’re also talking about having a luminary candle in the craft bag, and having people turn it on and then flying a drone over Denton,” Moore said.

Boerst said the festival will still collect new toys for needy children with a virtual Elves Shelves collection and drop-off locations. The association plans to print a map of spots in Denton to see Christmas lights and decorated yards.

A virtual lighting does give the association a chance to try new things.

“We’ve got someone who is gathering video of concerts and that kind of thing to stream, and we’ll have a who’s who of Denton County wishing everyone happy holidays,” Moore said.

Boerst said a member of the association is on the hunt for a prime spot near downtown to create a holiday mural — an attraction that will be ripe for photos, albeit socially-distanced photos.

“We’ll still have a VIP package,” Boerst said. “It will include this year’s Christmas ornament, the annual holiday T-shirt by Pan Ector [Industries] and some other things.”

The association is also working with its partners to spread as much cheer as possible in an irksome year. The association is reaching out to KUZU — 92.9 FM to possibly broadcast the event’s music album and to brainstorm some ways to share goodwill.

“We’re interested to see what this will look like,” Moore said. “People can keep up with us on our website and on Facebook.”

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877 and via Twitter at @LBreedingDRC.

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