Santa's Village in Bracebridge (Photo supplied by: Santa's Village on Facebook)
The goal is to open Santa’s Village for the May long weekend, but its General Manager says for that to happen, they need to get approval from the province.
Jamie Hopkins tells the MyMuskokaNow.com newsroom they submitted a reopening plan in November, but have been going back and forth with officials from the province since.
“We’ve been working very closely with the province to understand what would be required by us to get their approval to open this summer,” he says. The plan details how physical distancing will be maintained when people are in lines for food or rides. Hopkins adds that staff will need to be trained on how to “coach” people to follow those rules. It’s also detailed how often frequent touch-points will be sanitized. Hopkins says one important factor that needs to be worked out is how many people will be allowed in the park at one time. “We’ll have to have a system in place where we would be able to control the number of people in the park,” he explains, adding that this could be done by only allowing guests to purchase tickets ahead of time.
“We understand it’s a very difficult decision,” Hopkins says, noting that the information is changing on an almost daily basis, so that makes it even harder. “It’s obviously a bit of a moving target,” he says.
The problem is that for the village to open for the May long weekend, Hopkins says they need to be preparing now. He says that staff needs to be recruited and trained, then they need to ensure the equipment and rides are in working condition, make any needed repairs and purchase supplies for the season. Hopkins points out that while the park was open last year, no one was able to go on the rides. “For us, it really gets down to the rides,” he says. Hopkins adds they are the marquee event that people come to the village for.
He says that it will take eight to 10 weeks for staff to get the park open. With all the requirements that need to be followed as well, that could draw the process out even longer.
Hopkins knows they’re only a “small part” of the province’s grand scheme in Ontario’s reopening, but he still hopes to hear something soon. “We want them to understand the start-up lag we have and the amount of time it does take to open the park,” he says, adding he hopes that moves them up the queue.
“We’ve gotten some pretty good indication from them that our plan seems to address their concerns,” Hopkins says. He adds they don’t anticipate a situation where the province won’t allow them to open. “We feel we’re going to hear something from them imminently that will be very positive,” he says.