The downtown holiday tree will light up brightly every night through the winter holidays and new year.

Downtown Morgan Hill’s holiday tree stands tall and bright in front of the Community and Cultural Center, even though local organizations, clubs, business owners and residents won’t be able to celebrate in traditional fashion this winter.

The Morgan Hill Downtown Association installed the holiday tree last week, just before county public health officials implemented another stay-at-home order in response to the increasing spread of Covid-19. The artificial tree—which stands about 30 feet tall and is fully decked out in bright lights and colorful ornaments—was installed by Morgan Hill-based Pacific Display, which was contracted by the MHDA.

The annual lighting of downtown Morgan Hill’s holiday tree is typically welcomed with boisterous fanfare at the conclusion of the annual Holiday Lights Parade, one of the biggest local winter events each year. In years past, the holiday parade has drawn large crowds and included an opportunity for kids to visit with Santa Claus as well as performances by local children.

Jordan Rea and Collin Mitchell of Pacific Display install the downtown Morgan Hill holiday tree in front of the Community and Cultural Center on Dec. 4.

This year is clearly different, as the Covid-19 pandemic and related public gathering restrictions forced the parade’s sponsor—the Kiwanis Club of Morgan Hill—to cancel the festivities.

Kiwanis Club President Dennis Bettencourt said the club sought permission from county officials to conduct an “inside out” parade, where the floats and performers remain stationary along a planned route and spectators drive through slowly without exiting their vehicles. They sought to hold such an event at the city’s Outdoor Sports Center, but the county denied the request, Bettencourt said.

The county’s concern was the likely mingling of performers, participants and organizers from different households along the drive-through route, Bettencourt explained. The club also declined to install their annual downtown light post snowflake decorations along Monterey Road out of general pandemic safety concerns.

“That was a concession—we were trying to be good neighbors because the county has been begging everybody to stay home,” Bettencourt said.

The MHDA and downtown businesses have also been active supporters and participants in previous annual winter holiday events. But this year, the MHDA has sought other ways to safely ring in the holidays, according to MHDA board member and office manager Kerry Wallace.

The association released a video this week highlighting downtown Morgan Hill’s small businesses and thanking those who have helped the community make it through the “crazy year” that 2020 has been, Wallace said.

“Even though it’s been a long and trying year, there are a lot of things and people to be grateful for,” Wallace said. These include firefighters and police who responded to summertime wildfires, healthcare workers and new downtown businesses that managed to stay open through the challenges.

The MHDA shout-out also thanks city officials who have “helped keep businesses afloat,” Wallace added. “And we have had tremendous support from the broader Morgan Hill community that has supported the downtown.”

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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