COVID changes union holiday plans

Local union holiday traditions have been canceled or modified this year due to the pandemic.

The Grotto’s Festival of Lights announced it will be dark this holiday season. Volunteer members of IBEW Local 48 and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) have been involved with the distribution of power for the Festival of Lights since its inception in 1988. Anywhere from 40 to 60 journeymen and apprentice electricians would spend a Saturday in late October or early November wiring the festival, which always began the day after Thanksgiving. The first year the festival ran for just 10 nights with approximately 60,000 lights. Last year, the festival switched to LEDs, boosting the light count to more than 1 million and ran through New Year’s Day.

And the Marion-Polk-Yamhill Counties Labor Chapter won’t get to celebrate its 80th annual Holiday Party at the Elsinore Theatre in downtown Salem. For 79 uninterrupted years, hundreds of children and their families in the three-county area have attended a free party that included a holiday movie, live Christmas music performed by union musicians, goodie bags filled with union-made goods, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.

“The MPYCLC decided to not hold the holiday party this year due to the coronavirus and restrictions in place at this time,” said Chapter President Will Music.

Iron Workers Local 29 has hosted a “Breakfast with Santa” party annually for the past 32 years. This year there won’t be breakfast, but the festivities will carry on. On Dec. 5, the Iron Workers, their Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee, and the Ironworkers Federal Credit Union  will host a drive-up event at their union hall starting at 5:30 p.m. Volunteers will decorate the parking lot similar to the PIR light show, families will drive through a snow machine, stop by an ornament station, a hot cocoa stand, and at the end, drive by Santa Claus. Every child will get a present.

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