HARWICH — This year's Fall for Harwich and the town's traditional Christmas events are not likely to resemble the celebrations of the past, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, the chamber of commerce board of directors decided to cancel September's fireworks and Hometown parade, centerpieces of Fall for Harwich, and indicated that the annual Christmas stroll will be substantially changed and downsized.
“These decisions were made because we do not know when phase four of Reopening Massachusetts will be and we can’t have large gatherings” until then, said Chamber Executive Director Cyndi Williams. “We did have to cancel some things, but we’re working on other things to try to bring back normalcy as safely and responsibly as we can.”
The Cranberry Harvest Festival Committee has already canceled its event. Harwich Hometown Parade runs along Route 28 in Harwich Port on the second Sunday in September, with the fireworks the following Saturday, during the Cranberry Harvest Festival.
For a couple of decades, Fall for Harwich has been the shoulder season ribbon tying together community sponsored events, like the Cranberry Harvest Festival, that bring residents and visitors together to enjoy and enhance Harwich. The ban on large gatherings, however, will now allow most of the events to occur.
“I just don’t know what it will look like,” Williams said of Fall for Harwich. She plans to reach out to local businesses, churches and civil organizations to see what events they have planned that fit into gathering guidelines during the pandemic. Events that may continue include the Farmer’s Market and fall cranberry bog tours; steps have already been taken to reduce the group sizes for the tours, she said. But Williams added she does not see events like Restaurant Week occurring this year.
Early on in the pandemic, the chamber of commerce announced the annual Toast of Harwich, scheduled to be held at the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club in April, was postponed to November. Williams said the decision was made on Tuesday to cancel the Toast for this year.
The chamber board is looking at Christmas in Harwich, a weekend event that usually takes place the first weekend of December. Especially popular is the Friday night stroll in Harwich Port, which includes lighting the town Christmas tree, the arrival of Santa, horse drawn carriage rides through the village and the shops with a glow of the holiday season.
“It’s not likely you’ll see a traditional stroll,” Williams said. “You can’t have kids singing with masks on to a crowd of people so we thought we’d reach out to the seven villages.”
The relatively new Festival of Trees fundraiser started by Amy White and friends will continued, allowing people to bid on trees decorated by businesses containing gift cards and other surprises. But this year it will be an online auction, Williams said. Funds raised go to support the Family Pantry of Cape Cod, she said.
This year's Christmas in Harwich may focus on recognizing the seven villages of the town, Williams said. A Christmas tree may be placed in each of the villages and at 6 p.m. on the evening of the traditional stroll, the trees will be lighted via a timer.
Chamber officials will be keeping a close watch on the pandemic and could make some adjustments, Williams said.
“We’ll see everybody at all these events in 2021,” she said.