Wednesday, January 27, 2021     Volume: 21, Issue: 47

Santa Maria Sun / Spotlight

The following article was posted on November 23rd, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 39 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 39

Solvang and Buellton still plan to put on COVID-safe Christmas festivities

By Malea Martin

Despite Santa Barbara County’s regression back to the state’s most restrictive reopening allowances, Christmas celebrations in the Santa Ynez Valley are going full steam ahead, thanks to efforts to make events purple-tier compliant. 

“Fortunately, the strengthening of some of the rules didn’t affect what we had planned, because everything we were doing was already so conservative,” said Scott Shuemake, president of IDK Events, which is producing the 2020 Solvang Julefest.

The annual Solvang Julefest will commence with modifications despite the recent tightening of COVID-19 restrictions.

Julefest starts on Nov. 28 and runs until New Year’s Day. While visits with Santa can’t happen this year, other COVID-19-safe festivities will commence.

One is the Nisse Adventure, a search for the Solvang Nisse, a mythological Scandinavian Christmas elf that ties back to the village’s Danish roots. Clues will be provided at, and those who complete the challenge can earn a special prize.

Shuemake said 100 Christmas trees will also be scattered throughout the town to spark some holiday joy.

“We are distributing them for free to businesses and inspiring a friendly competition with Christmas tree decorating,” he said. 

Shuemake added that IDK Events will decorate the entire town and create “Instagrammable spots” where people can take festive photos. 

“We’re going to let the town shine and allow people to kind of wander through on their own time, supporting the local businesses, and let the town be the focus rather than any ancillary stuff,” he said. “Frankly, the town’s gorgeous at night anyway. It always feels kind of Christmassy year-round, so it will be nice to reinforce that feeling.”

Anna Ferguson-Sparks, owner of Stiletto Marketing, which is helping promote Julefest, added that the city’s closure of Copenhagen Drive will give Julefest-goers another opportunity to mill around and enjoy the town’s natural holiday spirit.

“It just turned into a pedestrian promenade. That is continuing through October of 2021 at the least,” Ferguson-Sparks said, referring to the Solvang City Council’s Oct. 12 decision to continue the closure for a full year. “So people can come up to Solvang at their leisure, and they’ve accommodated that street to basically allow people to better social distance by removing all the cars and giving everyone space to roam.”

The city’s candlelight tour tradition is also here to stay, with modifications like limited capacity and social distancing.

“They’re just filled with history,” Ferguson-Sparks said of the tours. “They walk you through town and give you a little historical talk about landmarks as you go. It’s a very Christmassy nighttime activity.”

With tours being a safe and fun option during the pandemic, Julefest is also promoting Eat This, Shoot That!, a local food and photography tour company.

“They’re perfect for a family or a girlfriend pod traveling together,” Ferguson-Sparks said.

Eat This, Shoot That! owner Tara Haaf said her company is Solvang’s first and only food tour.

“Along the way, you’re learning about local history of all the places we’re visiting, what makes their dishes so unique or special, and local wine and the beer scene,” Haaf said. “Then we’re teaching a little something about food photography with your smartphone—kind of how to up your Instagram game.”

Haaf said part of her company’s mission is to help promote the local food scene.

“This year more than ever, we are bending over backwards to do whatever we can to help,” Haaf said. 

Tours in Solvang are available every Saturday, and some Sundays by request. If you’re down farther south for the weekend, Eat This, Shoot That! leads tours in Santa Barbara, too.  

“We’re hosting quite a few private groups, which we highly recommend, especially if you have anybody who’s at risk in your family or friend group,” Haaf added. 

Just up the road in Buellton, the city’s Chamber of Commerce told the Sun that its Dec. 6 Christmas Farmers Market is still a go.

The outdoor event at Village Park, located on Valley Vineyard Circle, will feature local farmers selling produce, a food truck, and take-home arts and crafts kits. Santa Claus will even be present for a socially distanced photo-op, and children are encouraged to bring their wish lists to drop in his mailbox. 


• On Nov. 19, Santa Barbara County Animal Services announced a temporary closure of its Lompoc shelter. The county will be increasing staffing and animal care in its Santa Maria and Santa Barbara shelters through January. “This short-term management strategy also provides a unique opportunity to explore innovative ways of delivering services into the Lompoc area,” a county statement said. The county will build off of existing partnerships with CARE4Paws and Companion Animal Placement Assistance to increase animal services in Lompoc through “additional mobile veterinary clinics, offsite events for pet food distribution, vaccines, licensing, free microchipping, and more,” according to the county. 

Staff Writer Malea Martin wrote this week’s Spotlight. Send tips to

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