There was a 6-foot space between children and Santa this year during Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce's and Parks and Recreation Department’s Holiday on the Harbor. The city was able to hold a small number of activities while keeping families socially distanced at the event.

Cookie and ornament decorating kits were given out to be done at home this year, and all activities were held outside at Steamboat Landing Park instead of inside the Boathouse. A horse-drawn carriage circled families around the park.

Parks and Recreation Director Norm Poirier previously announced that hot chocolate would not be handed out because of concerns about used cups being left unattended.

Mrs. Claus was at the event, greeting children before it was their turn to talk to Santa. Many kids could be heard asking for toys and video games. The most requested items included Barbie dream houses, Nerf guns, LEGOs and dolls, according to Justin Barnes, who played Santa this year.

Parker Gross, 7, and his siblings, Sawyer, 5, and Alayna, 3, all said they were happy to be able to talk to Santa this year. Parker asked for LEGOs, Sawyer asked for a monster truck and Alayna asked for a toy kitchen set.

The event was the first time they had ever ridden in a horse-drawn carriage, mother Jennifer Gross said. She decided to bring her family because she thought it was a safe event for her children to attend during the coronavirus pandemic, which has kept the family home most of the time.

Most of the children were excited to see Santa, with only a few acting shy or nervous. One child with a tiny, squeaky voice yelled, “I love you, Santa,” as he left the gazebo where Santa was sitting.

A few kids ran up to Santa and gave him hugs despite the 6-foot social distance requirement, but it is difficult to contain children’s excitement sometimes, Chamber of Commerce Director Steve Ryan said.

Scarlett Smith, 7, wrote Santa and Mrs. Claus thank-you cards that she made. She bounced around the park talking to volunteers and staff while her dad, Chamber of Commerce Operations Manager Scott Smith, worked the event.

Her favorite part of Christmas is putting up decorations and putting out milk and cookies for Santa to eat, she said. She was never concerned that she would not be able to talk to Santa this year.

Ryan said it is important for the chamber to hold community events when it can, as so many of them have been canceled this year because of the coronavirus. Everyone in attendance accepted new rules this year because of the special circumstances and did not refuse to wear a mask or keep a social distance.

The event took place in two parts and preregistration requirements filled the event quickly, Ryan said, adding that it was a good feeling to see children excited and enjoying the event.

“I think it’s important to do something for the community, and of course the kids, if we can do it right,” he said. “We’re grateful to be able to do this for the kids in an otherwise somewhat dreary year and give them some smiles.”