— Holiday celebrations will be a little different this year in Middleburg due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the community’s spirit is stronger than ever.

While Middleburg’s popular Christmas in Middleburg weekend will not be held this year, the town will still hold its annual tree lighting and caroling at The Pink Box, utilizing the traffic triangle at Marshall and Madison streets to allow for social distancing among attendees. Santa Claus is even expected to take time from his busy schedule to make a special virtual appearance at the program!

This year’s festivities will also include a weekly scavenger hunt, a drop box at the post office for letters to Santa, carriage rides, and photo opportunities. The merrymaking is expected to begin the Saturday after Thanksgiving and continue throughout the holiday season.

“We are not having the parade, but we are going to be having a series of events, and we really want Middleburg to shine during the entire month of December,” said Middleburg Business and Economic Development Director Jamie Gaucher.

The holiday celebrations were highlighted as part of the Middleburg Business and Professional Association’s virtual Biz Buzz, held Oct. 13 at Nature Composed. The floral shop will also be getting into the holiday spirit, with a new outdoor area opening soon that will feature Santa’s workshop, wreaths, holiday decor, hot chocolate and more.

The Biz Buzz meeting also focused several important opportunities for Middleburg’s business community, including Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness. Michael Horan, vice president of commercial lending at Northwest Federal Credit Union, noted that the Small Business Administration has recently provided further guidance to address the qualifications for loan forgiveness.

“What a lot of the institutions have gone to is a 16-month deferral from the date that you received the funds,” Horan said, noting that business owners should reach out to their lending institutions for more information. Horan said Northwest had processed about 1,500 applications and has already received a lot of forgiveness requests, but the SBA has not started processing those yet.

Further details on loan forgiveness can be found at NWFCU’s website at nwfcu.org.

The Middleburg Town Council also recently approved a new program intended to defray costs for restaurants to continue providing outdoor dining in the colder months, including tenting, heaters and sanitation.

“We want to make sure that we have in-person dining available to us as long as possible, so that we can ensure a proper and safe, socially appropriate, COVID-friendly environment for people to come out, and we have enough demand and foot traffic, so that all the businesses can benefit throughout the fall as long as we can do so safely,” said Middleburg Vice Mayor Philip Miller. “We want to make sure that people feel comfortable coming out to Middleburg.”

MBPA President Punkin Lee thanked the Town Council for its work to help Middleburg’s business community throughout the pandemic, including a restaurant voucher program and reimbursement program for retail shops. “I think I can probably speak for everyone in this town to say how much we appreciate and how proud we are of Town Council and what they are doing to keep us afloat and alive and keep Middleburg in a good spot,” Lee said. “We are very fortunate that we are in this community and appreciate all that is being done.”

Other upcoming efforts of note include a new marketing program from the Town of Middleburg geared toward bringing more visitors to town.

The Town of Middleburg also recently put out another request for proposal for the restoration and reuse of historic Asbury Church on Jay Street. Interested parties must submit a formal and responsive proposal by 4 p.m. on Dec. 2, 2020.

You can find a recording of the full MBPA meeting here.