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Classic Maine holiday traditions adapt amid COVID-19 pandemic

Events like Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude or a ride on the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad are still happening, but will look different to meet safety guidelines

MAINE, USA — It's no secret, celebrating the holidays will look and feel a lot different in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, however many classic Maine holiday staples will still be running. 

"Our main focus was to make sure that we maintain the tradition that was started 30 years ago," Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Executive Director Wes Heinz said. 

This year, the railroad will once again be taking families to the 'North Pole' in their historic train cars. 

"Our children need something that's normal. So we made a plan and said ok, we're going to do this," Heinz said. 

The ride on board the 'Holiday Express' will be a bit different this year as COVID-19 cases surge in Maine and across the nation. Riders will be required to wear face masks, and will be on socially distanced train cars. This year, capacity for each trip has also been cut down from 500 per ride to 150. Cars will also be fully sanitized after each run. 

Despite the changes, Heinz says the magic of the event will still be the same and Santa Claus will still make an appearance. Families will not be able to eat cookies and drink hot cocoa with the big man in red however. 

"It's a blessing that we were able to put it all together and carry on the tradition for their families," Heinz said.

Another classic Maine tradition dating back 39 years will also continue in 2020. The Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude will happen this year, but it will all be virtual.

"The key thing for us was to make sure that everyone had a safe prelude. So we weren't in position to invite people out for a live tree lighting," Kennebunkport Business Association President Paul Humphrey said. 

Last year the tree lightings, caroling, and more brought upwards of 4,000 people to town. Humphrey says through social media they've already been able to reach more than that this year, including into other countries. 

"It was really important to celebrate Christmas prelude because it is such a key part of the community this time of year," Humphrey said. 

The next event as part of the Kennebunkport Christmas Prelude will be the second lighting of the Cape Porpoise lobster trap tree, which happens Friday at 7:00 p.m. You can also find all of the previous video streaming on the event's Facebook page.

Tickets for the Holiday Express, hosted by the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad must be purchased online prior to arrival. The events will run through December 23. 

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