THE first signs of Christmas have started to appear across Sunraysia as communities yearn for Yuletide festivities to put cheer in the final weeks of 2020.

Shop windows are being decorated in Mildura’s CBD and shopping strips.

Adjoining shops in some streets have “linked” together with sign-painted tinsel connecting the businesses.

And while traditional community Christmas carol events have been cancelled, the sounds of Christmas will still be heard.

A Mildura City Heart spokesperson said that all of its Christmas plans were still in place, but would be held in a COVID safe way.

“Santa will be visiting, we can still have live music on the stage and our Christmas Twilight Market can still go ahead,” they said.

“We also have an extra special family activation to add to the Christmas spirit.”

A feature of the City Heart attractions will be ‘Santa’s Reindeer Training Academy’ which will welcome the kids and the big kids of Mildura to train Santa’s Reindeer and get them fit for their biggest day of the year, Christmas Eve!

People are also invited to visit the magical ‘Winter Wonderland’ where a flock of reindeer enjoy being ridden by children of all ages, from toddlers to Grandmas and Grandads.

This free event promises to be a magical experience for all of the family and will be conducted with all the COVID safe protocols in place.

City Heart will also be having a Christmas Gift Card Giveaway again this year with ‘Nugget the Mini’ and $25,000 worth of MCH gift cards being given away.

Mildura Rural City Council has indicated it had not received any applications for busking permits, which suggest that there won’t be any other live entertainment in the mall this year other than the City Heart entertainment.

Merbein, Irymple and Red Cliffs community groups have all cancelled their carols as have the Mildura carols and the New Year’s Eve event normally held at Nowingi Place, and would usually attract up to 5000 people, has also become a casualty of the pandemic.

“Yes, sadly Red Cliffs Carols has been cancelled, as the COVID and Council regulations made it very hard to plan a safe event,” event co-organiser Karen Willcock said.

While the council has cancelled the New Year’s Eve celebrations, it has announced that new Events Recovery Grants are designed to help reinvigorate the region’s events calendar, stimulate the local economy and support locals and visitors by providing entertainment options that are COVID-Safe.

Small businesses can now apply for up to four Live Entertainment grants of $500 to pay for local artists to perform at their venues, including for potential New Year’s Eve and other small-scale holiday period events.

Funding is also available for Major Events (between $7500 and $20,000), Large Community Events (up to $5000), Small Community Events (up to $2500) and Business Events and Conferences (between $2500 and $20,000).