Jendaya Fleming & Corrie Drummond

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — People in Rock Hill celebrating the holidays may have noticed some changes to events held throughout November and December, with the intent of limiting the transmission of COVID-19.

People could still enjoy a number of activities for the holiday this year, such as the Founder’s Federal Credit Union Holiday Ice Rink or horse-drawn carriage rides to check out the decorations in downtown Rock Hill, with a few changes.

For example, visitors to the ice rink were limited to a hour-long session, which cost $10, as employees took precautions due to COVID-19.

“In between the sessions we have to get everyone off the ice and stop and sanitize everything and we have a max of how many people we allow on the rink,” said Madison Wright, an employee at the Founders Holiday Ice Rink.

“We do allow 50 people on the rink at a time, but once we do max out the 50 people, we have to either turn them down or have them sign up for the next hour session,” said Wright.

She said they also recommended people select their skate sizes to ensure the skates can be ready upon their arrival when purchasing tickets online.

“It completely changed. I come from a big family so we’re used to big gatherings, so just limiting to two households is kind of hard when we have family from out of state who want to see us, but we can’t see them,” said Ashley Lizano, who visited the ice rink.

“The turnout this year has been better than we expected with COVID. We maxed out with a couple of our sessions, but the days we don’t max out it has been slow,” said Madison Wright, an employee at the Holiday Ice Rink.

Precautions were also made to clean the horse drawn carriages after each ride, which cost $25 for up to six people for a 20-minute ride.

Toy Soldier
A number of holiday events in Rock Hill, including the popular ChristmasVille, were moved online due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 (photo: Jendaya Fleming).

“We’re lucky we live in an area where we can do some things,” said Stacy Bryant, who took a horse-drawn carriage ride.

That was a sentiment shared by others, who said they were excited for a chance to celebrate the holidays, despite the changes.

“Listening to Christmas music and seeing people happy too, also helps get me in the Christmas spirit,” said Evan Crockford, an employee at the Founders Holiday Ice Rink.

“One of the things that I miss about the holidays is that we did not have our whole family down (to visit)…and I was a little sad, but it probably needed to happen,” said Crockford.

Many events to be held virtually

A number of holiday traditions in York County looked very different last year, as many events, which would have happened in person, were moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brianna Francis, vice president of marketing and communications for Visit York County, said it’s the group’s job to promote tourism, but it was also important to find safe ways to celebrate during the pandemic.

“Rock Hill has an annual festival that is renown across the country, known as ChristmasVille, which is a 10-day Hallmark movie type festival in downtown Rock Hill,” Francis said. “That’s actually been pushed to virtual, but they will have a couple of in-person events, but its mostly virtual.”

While some holiday events, such as the Founders Holiday Ice Rink have remained in-person with added precautions, Francis said moving most events online has cost the county thousands of visitors.

As a result, a number of York County residents and visitors said they are sad about the changes to the holiday lineup.

York County native Jessica Young said she misses the Christmas traditions she’s grown up with, but she is hopeful for a safe way to celebrate the holidays.

“It will probably be a little difficult this year because of COVID, but I think it’s still time a way for people to have fun, people to still interact and be able to still have a great Christmas,” Young said.

Tatianna Davis, a mass communication major at Winthrop University, said she wants to enjoy Christmas, despite the changes.

“I definitely miss all the Christmas events that were happening. I definitely miss coming together and seeing other people,” Davis said.

Sydney Broadus, another mass communication major at Winthrop, said she would like to attend events in person, but she is concerned about the coronavirus.

“I would like to go out with my friends but were all concerned about (COVID-19),” said Broadus.

As for the future, Francis said she is optimistic about how things will look next Christmas.

“I think everybody is hoping to have their festivals next year,” Francis said. “But as we learn in the tourism industry, you can say that something is going to happen, but what’s happening with science is going to take precedent”