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Excelsior's annual Christmas market will be a socially distanced affair

Event organizers say it'll be one of the only places where kids can get up close with Santa because he'll be in a bubble.

Excelsior's annual Christmas market will be held on more days this year as event organizers adapt the event for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Excelsior Christkindlsmarkt, which is inspired by German open-air Christmas markets, is celebrating its 15th year when it opens the day after Thanksgiving.

The festival offers food and beverages, artisan crafts, gifts, magic shows, carolers, live reindeer, llamas, sled dogs and plenty of holiday lights and decor. 

Father Christmas will also be there, offering what event organizers believe may be the only place in the western Twin Cities where kids can visit up close with Santa this season. (He'll be in an ornament-shaped bubble so kids can talk with him while staying safe.)

“While it made things more challenging to organize, the pandemic led us to think even more creatively this year, and Father Christmas in a dome is just one example,” event coordinator Myrle Mackenzie said in a news release. 

Festival organizers are also moving the event from its typical location on Water Street to the Excelsior Commons on the shores of Lake Minnetonka to provide more space for people to socially distance. 

“The Commons allows the Excelsior Christkindlsmarkt to spread out over four acres compared with our previous years’ location in a parking lot downtown —which we loved, but couldn’t do this year due to the state’s COVID-19 event rules,” Mackenzie said. 

These are among the changes to this year as the event adjusts for pandemic-related safety protocols. 

The event will be held on Nov. 27-29 and Dec. 4-6, which is double the number of days (typically, it's only held the weekend after Thanksgiving). And because of capacity restrictions, which are currently set at 250 people, attendees will have to buy tickets this year to help event organizers limit and control attendance.

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You can buy tickets online here. Tickets are $5 per adult, while children 12 and younger are free. One ticket is good for one hour inside the festival – buying two consecutive tickets is allowed for those who want to stay longer.

Organizers say they're charging to admission this year "to cover the large increased costs of safely hosting an event." Net proceeds from the event will go to His House Foundation and the ICA Food Shelf.

Those who attend will be asked COVID-19 screen questions before they can enter, masks will be required at all times other than when eating and drinking and attendees are asked to socially distance. Other precautions are also in place based on guidance event organizers received from state officials. Those can be found here.

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