The annual Small-Town Christmas celebration has been canceled for this year due to health concerns, but officials say they will not let COVID-19 cancel Christmas.

Chad Oliver, the executive director of the Princeton-Caldwell County Chamber of Commerce, said the Thursday decision by the chamber board to cancel Small-Town Christmas was influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the onset of the flu season.

“With everything that’s been going on with COVID — and, of course, we’re entering the flu season — we’ve had to take a lot of that into consideration,” he said. “This was the first year where we all decided that it would be in the best interest of everybody if we canceled this year’s Small-Town Christmas.

“We’re doing that for the safety of the community and all those who would be coming there. We don’t want anybody to risk getting sick.”

Oliver said the Christmas parade is still on, and will feature Santa Claus.

“That usually takes place the first Saturday of December (Dec. 5),” he said. “That date is still tentative and subject to change, but that’s what we’re looking at right now.”

Oliver said that the chamber is seeking participants and sponsors for the Christmas parade, which will feature a drawing for first, second and third place for best float.

Those wanting to take part in the Christmas parade should call Oliver at the chamber office at its toll-free number, 1-833-460-1321 or by email at princetonkychamber@gmail.com.

“Santa will be in the parade, but we’re not going to be able to have the Santa House,” he said. “That’s another thing that’s going to be a downer this year. We want to keep Santa safe and keep our children safe as well.

“We’re looking at times where we can possibly set up at different areas around town — this is a possibility, not set in stone yet — where we can have Santa pop up at certain times.

“We’re looking for maybe some other businesses downtown that would feel comfortable to sponsor having Santa come to their business and hang out for a while or just say ‘Hi’ at a safe distance.”

Oliver said the chamber is considering having a downtown display contest in lieu of missing the Small-Town Christmas celebration.

“We are looking at doing a window decoration and art for best painting, window decorations and Christmas decorations for all of our chamber businesses that want to participate,” he said. “It’s like a contest — having first, second and third places. We’re looking for business that want to get involved with that as well.

“Any business that is a chamber member that wants to get involved and decorate their business, we’re going to go through and see who has the best one. That will bring a little bit of cheer in lieu of not having Small-Town Christmas.”

Last year’s Small-Town Christmas at the Tourism Center featured Breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus, Elf on the Shelf, Buddy the Elf, Christmas music and art projects.

“We had close to 280 people come through,” Oliver said. “That’s the main reason we’re (canceling) it for safety this year. We just can’t social-distance that many people all at once.”

Oliver said despite the event cancellation, the Christmas spirit will be kept alive in Caldwell County.

“We’re the ones that keep that Christmas spirit alive,” he said. “As long as we can do our best and do what we can to keep it alive, I think we’ll be doing good.”