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Baltimore’s ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ will light up as usual this year, but visitors are discouraged due to coronavirus

The candy canes and toy soldiers, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and countless other decorations are up at Bob and Darlene Hosier’s house in Hampden. Down the block, a flock of plastic flamingos and artist Jim Pollack’s famous Hubcap Christmas Tree stand ready for their annual showcase.

But when the Christmas lights go on Saturday night, no visitors will be allowed on the porches or inside the homes that make up Baltimore’s “Miracle on 34th Street,” and neighbors and city officials are asking visitors to skip the popular attraction this year due to concerns about the coronavirus.

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“Don’t come this year,” Bob Hosier, who started the tradition in 1982, posted on ChristmasStreet.com, the website he maintains. “Take a year off, go to other places where people can stretch out, and that way there will be no issues about social distancing.”

City Councilwoman-elect Odette Ramos, a Democrat who will represent the 14th District after she is sworn in next month, has been planning with neighbors about how to handle any potential crowds and will distribute signs to encourage social distancing and mask-wearing for those who do visit.

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Contact information for city health and police officials has been distributed to homeowners on the block, Ramos said, in case crowds gather and refuse to disperse.

“It would be great if people could skip it this year and come back for a bigger and better next year,” Ramos said.

The block, typically closed to traffic by the city on weekend nights during the holidays to allow people to enjoy the lights, will likely remain open to allow people to view it from their cars, Ramos said.

But the councilwoman-elect thinks closing the street would, in fact, provide more room for social distancing — and she worries that leaving it open to traffic will force pedestrian visitors to crowd the sidewalks.

“I think there’s going to be a little bit of trial and error,” she said.

Baltimore has halted all special event permits amid rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Maryland and across the country, according to James Bentley, a spokesman for Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young.

The Mayor’s Christmas Parade is canceled this year, and the annual Washington Monument Lighting is occurring virtually, in a 30-minute televised special Thursday at 7:30 p.m. on WJZ-TV, without all the usual food vendors and festivities at Mount Vernon Place.

The Union Square Association’s Cookie Tour, will be virtual for its 35th year, said Debra Rahl, one of the organizers. Normally, hundreds of visitors to stop in and enjoy a cookie at about 20 different houses in the neighborhood.

Instead of visiting in-person, the public can pay $20 for a video tour of five houses and a cookie cookbook with recipes to make at home.

“We certainly are going to miss having our guests come through,” said Rahl, 66, who has lived on South Stricker Street for 40 years. “We hope they’ll come see us next year. We hope they enjoy this little piece of Christmas we’re putting on virtually this year.”

While Santa is only a maybe this year and some neighbors are scaling back their displays, the notion of not putting up their usual 34th Street Christmas decorations this year never crossed the Hosiers’ minds.

“We’re going to turn the lights on and enjoy the holiday,” Bob Hosier said. “What everybody else does is what everybody else does. ... We’ve taken all the precautions we can. I have full faith in Marylanders to do everything they can to abide by what Gov. [Larry] Hogan told us to do: Wear the damn mask.”

Morgen Hunt, 33, who has lived on 34th Street for a year, plans to dress up as Mariah Carey and sing “All I Want For Christmas Is You” on her “Rockefeller Enchanted”-themed porch on Saturday night.

Lighting up the neighborhood block for the holidays provides a nice distraction from what’s been an otherwise bleak year, Hunt said. She is among the neighbors who aren’t completely against visitors — as long as they wear masks, stay distanced and keep it moving.

“People are free to do what they want to do in moderation,” she said. “I would love it if people could enjoy. But visit. Don’t stay.”

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