Ho Ho Hold on!

The Meadow Lake and District Chamber of Commerce’s annual Moonlight Madness event this Friday (Nov. 20) may serve as the unofficial start of the Christmas season, but the ongoing global pandemic and a surge in the number of positive COVID-19 cases throughout the region means some important changes have been made to the popular shopping event.

“We will still be open until 9 p.m. this Friday, but the difference is we won’t have baked goods, live music, and we won’t be giving out free gifts to the first 100 customers,” explained Wayne Marsh of Meadow Lake Home Hardware Building Centre. “We are trying to be responsible in not attracting large crowds.”

Marsh went on to say customers can still benefit from the same deals they have come to expect during Moonlight Madness in years past.

“We will still be offering in-store specials and flyer sales items,” he said. “We will also be following up with more great deals leading up to Black Friday (Nov. 27). We want to do two things – spread out the local shopping opportunity and still give our customers some great deals.”

Meanwhile, at Martodam’s The Clothing People – another popular business during Moonlight Madness – efforts are being made to not only keep large crowds to a minimum, but to eliminate them entirely.

“Instead of running our annual sale this Friday until midnight and cramming all the traffic in at once, we’ve decided to spread the sale out Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” remarked store owner Dave Martodam. “We’re still having a big sale, but are trying to spread out the traffic.”

On Friday night, instead of welcoming a crowd of people into the store, staff members will be in the building, accepting orders over the phone or through social media.

“People can pay for their orders over the phone or they can come to the front, pick up their item,” Martodam added. “Unfortunately, they won’t be able to try anything on or walk around the store. They will only be able to pay for it at the front door, or we can deliver it in town or mail it up north… Rather than see the cases get worse and more pressure put on our health system, we would rather people follow some rules and have some courtesy for their fellow person. We don’t want people to miss out (on the sale), but we also want people to be safe.”

In addition to the special deals at participating businesses, the Chamber itself is sponsoring free swimming Friday night at the Meadow Lake Aquatic Centre, free skating at both the Meadow Lake and District Arena and a free movie at Aurora Cinemas. Also, a free hot chocolate and coffee drive-thru service will be established at the Meadow Lake and District Museum from 6 to 9 p.m. All required health and safety, as well as cleaning requirements concerning COVID-19 will be in place at all of these locations.

According to a joint statement issued recently by local healthcare professionals, however, concern exists when it comes to Moonlight Madness potentially leading to the further spread of COVID-19.

“A large number of people moving around in one evening can lead to congestion and spread of the virus,” the statement reads. “At a time when the province is at more than 100 per cent ICU bed capacity, positive cases are surging, we are concerned for the well-being of immune compromised people.”

The doctors and nurses – who issued the statement at their own discretion and not at the request of the Saskatchewan Health Authority – do, however, believe in the need to support local business, but only if done so in a safe manner.

“People who choose to shop, please be safe, wear masks, wash your hands and be sure to social distance,” the statement continued. “We just want to know our town is responsible and safe.”

by Phil Ambroziak