The “coolest fest in the Southwest” is back. Well, kind of.

This year Winterfest is a 'fest' in name only. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the city to "modify" it's presentation, said Deputy City Manager Tracey Jerome in a city press release. It’s basically going to be lights and decorations only.

All the in-person events and activities we’ve come to look forward to over the years, like the Christmas tree lighting, Parade of Lights, and ice-skating has been put on pause. Plans to open the Plaza Theater for "Holiday Movies at the Plaza" changed when the death count began to rise and our community started seeing an alarming surge in positive coronavirus cases.

So, what will be going on downtown this holiday season? Just lights and decorations in and around San Jacinto Plaza. Now, about that:

San Jacinto Plaza, the Arts Festival Plaza, Paseo de Las Luces, and the El Paso International Airport will be lighted with festive features, holiday trees and decorations. Visitors can enjoy the festive season by driving through these areas from the safety of their vehicles and following COVID-19 health and safety protocols. - City of El Paso press release

City official prefer that you drive around the Plaza and take in the Christmas ambiance from your vehicle, but if you choose to stroll through the park you are asked to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and avoid going with or being a part of a large group.

To insure visitors follow "best practices," the city statement notes that "security guards will be assisting with enforcement of restrictions on gatherings."

“Although ice skating and downtown events will not be a part of our WinterFest programming for this season, we are excited to offer a variety of online programming, including concerts, crafts, and baking,” said General Manager of Destination El Paso Bryan Crowe.

Ho Ho Ho? Nah, more like ho-hum. But, we really don’t have anyone or anything to blame but ourselves. Our community’s refusal as a whole to take even the simplest precautions seriously is why we are currently losing the fight, lives, and livelihoods to COVID-19. End of editorial.

The WinterFest ligts will be turned on from December 5 to January 3. All virtual programs will appear on the El Paso WinterFest Facebook page.

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