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Portland holiday traditions adapting for COVID-19

Organizers are changing and, in some cases, canceling many holiday traditions, hoping to keep the community safe.

PORTLAND, Ore. — As we look to the holidays, concern over the coronavirus is already impacting some of Portland's most beloved traditions. However, many are adapting to help people celebrate safely.

For 30 years, music lovers have delighted in the holiday concert tradition of Christmas at The Old Church with Michael Allen Harrison.

“People come to that show to feel something,” said Harrison.

This year, guests won't get to go to the concert in person. Initially slated for 30 shows to honor its 30th year, the concert was canceled because of COVID-19. But all is not lost. Harrison and his fellow musicians just finished shooting an hour-long television Christmas special at The Old Church which will air on KGW, Dec. 10.

“This is going to look like a national television special,” said Harrison. “I'm so excited how beautiful it looks.”

An extended version of the concert will be available for pay-per-view. Harrison also started a GoFundMe account to raise money to support The Old Church and his fellow musicians. He wants to pay his cast what they earned last year from performing in 24 shows.

“We just want to do what we can to employee people in the arts and give this gift of the show to the community,” said Harrison. “That's really what our goal is.”

Not all holiday traditions are adapting this year. Portland's Peacock Lane is canceled. Neighbors are sad, but felt it was best for everyone's health and safety. 

RELATED: Portland's Peacock Lane Holiday light display canceled

ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo is still a go. Zoo officials plan to release more information in the coming weeks but said guests can expect to follow similar rules as daytime visitors including social distancing, required masks and purchasing tickets online. The zoo also plans to allow visitors to drive through the display on select nights. 

"It's so exciting,” said Oregon Zoo Marketing and Brand Manager, Krista Swan. "It's a holiday tradition that so many people look forward to—it will be a nice moment of joy for everybody.”

Another popular tradition is The Grotto's Festival of Lights. Organizers tell KGW they’re still designing how the festival will look this year, but choirs will not be performing because of social distancing restrictions.

“There will certainly be a Christmas celebration at The Grotto but it will not be the usual Festival of Lights,” said festival director, Jane Tokito. She said more details will likely be available next week.

Perhaps the safest bet for viewing lights this year will be Winter Wonderland at Portland International Raceway.

“Families that are driving the two-plus miles at PIR, you're still going to be in your car so it's a very safe environment,” said Kyle Camberg, executive director of the Sunshine Division. All proceeds from Winter Wonderland go to the Sunshine Division, which is hoping for a big turnout.

“We've essentially had to cancel every fundraising event that we have,” said Camberg. “So to have this at the holiday season when we're helping more people than ever, it's just critical to our ability to continue to feed families here in Portland.”

To keep employees and guests safe, Winter Wonderland will not be accepting cash this year and canceled Bike Night and Dog Walk Night.