It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in El Dorado, and Main Street El Dorado is helping to make the season even merrier with a schedule filled with events that will usher in the holiday season.
First up is the annual Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony, which set for 5 until 7 p.m. Thursday in the historic Union Square District.
Downtown merchants have begun switching out their exterior lightbulbs with the traditional red-and-green Christmas color scheme, and Christmas lights, including the city’s signature holiday poinsettias, have begun sprouting up on light poles downtown and along North West Avenue.
However, for the second consecutive year, one of El Dorado’s most popular and longstanding Christmas traditions will not be part of the lighting ceremony.
Community Christmas Tree
Efforts to relight the Community Christmas Tree have been suspended until city officials come up with a new plan for the tree.
For decades, the tree had been the highpoint of the city’s trail of holiday lights, overlooking the former KTVE offices in the 300 block of West Main.
Since 1965, vehicles circled underneath the “World’s Tallest Man-Made Christmas Tree,” which hung from the 200-foot communications tower that once served KTVE’s broadcasting base in El Dorado.
Last year, tower owner American Tower ordered the removal of the lighting display after an inspection showed that the badly deteriorated lights and supporting equipment posed a safety hazard.
Property owner Shelli Cross struck a lease agreement with American Tower that would allow for the continued use of the structure for the Christmas tree.
City officials then set about finding the money to replace the lights and presented a funding request to the El Dorado Works Board in September 2016.
At the time, Mayor Frank Hash said he had also learned about discussions to form a private group and create an endowment for the annual operation of the tree.
Efforts came to a halt as city officials decided to explore other options due to some restrictions that came with the agreement with American Tower.
For instance, the tree could not be erected prior to Dec. 1. The tree is customarily lit, along with other Christmas decorations in the city, during the Downtown Lighting Ceremony each November.
Hash said that the city is working with the Murphy Arts District to come up with a plan for the tree.
Past discussions included an idea to make room for the tree within the district in the spot where a 110-foot replica of oil derrick stands as an homage to the city’s oil boom history.
The derrick is next to the Griffin Restaurant and Music Hall at the intersection of Washington and Locust.
Hash said the derrick isn’t tall enough for the Christmas tree in its traditional size, nor was the space designed to allow vehicles to drive underneath.
“I’m also considering the parking lot behind (First Baptist Church),” Hash said. “It’s in a central location and there’s room there to drive under the tree, which is what people like to do.”
The city owns the easternmost portion of the parking lot in the in area of Elm and Cleveland.
The Christmas season will officially kick off in the city with the downtown lighting ceremony, now dubbed “The El Dorado Lighting Spectacular.”
Main Street El Dorado is helming the event this year.
In 2016, the Downtown Business Association took the lead in planning the ceremony as Main Street worked its way through financial difficulties.
“Main Street did not do the lighting ceremony last year, so we’re glad to have it back, and we want to thank the DBA, the (El Dorado-Union County) Chamber of Commerce, and all of our sponsors for helping to make this happen,” said Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street.
Activities for the lighting ceremony include a DJ; performances by local dance schools; traditional and contemporary Christmas songs by Emily Cole and LeBryant Crew; sneak peeks from “Hollywood and Pine Holiday Revue,” the South Arkansas Arts Center’s 2017 Christmas production; the announcement of the grand marshals for the El Dorado Christmas Parade; and the launch of the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle fundraising campaign.
At 6:10 p.m., a local celebrity will flip the switch for the holiday lights, illuminating Downtown El Dorado in the traditional red-and-greens of the Christmas season.
Rides on a horse-drawn carriage and the PJ’s Express Holiday Train will be free to the public for the evening.
The free rides will be offered each night through Nov. 19.
The rides will continue at a cost each Friday and Saturday throughout the remainder of the holiday season.
The Downtown Holiday Open House is scheduled from 1 until 4 p.m., Nov. 19.
Merchants will offer specials and show off their wares, including one-of-a-kind gifts.
Main Street will also be on the square during the day offering free hot dogs and drinks to shoppers.
Santa is expected to make an appearance at The Spot, located between PJ’s Coffee and the El Dorado Creamery on North Washington Avenue.
Santa will be handing out cookies and toys for children. Visitors who wish to take photos with Santa must bring their own cameras.
Other local businesses around the city will also be hosting Christmas open houses throughout the holiday season.
One business, Especially for You, held its Christmas Open House on Nov. 4, and Sweet and Sassy Boutique has scheduled its Christmas Open House and sale for today.
During the Christmas Open House, shoppers will receive a “passport” from participating businesses as part of a national promotion leading up to Shop Small Saturday on Nov. 25.
Main Street is partnering with American Express for the campaign, which encourages citizens to shop small businesses in local communities.
Customers who make purchases between Nov. 19 and 25 at participating downtown businesses and have their “passports” stamped in eight designated areas will have the opportunity to enter a drawing to win a prize pack containing the 2017 El Dorado Christmas ornament, cash, a gasoline card, tickets to holiday concerts featuring Home Free and Phil Vassar and Kellie Pickler in the Murphy Arts District, and a charm bracelet with a MAD charm from Murphy-Pitard Jewelers — all valued at more than $800.
The drawing will be held on Nov. 27.
On Shop Small Saturday, Main Street will set up a gift-wrapping service on the lawn of the Union County Courthouse.
The service will be free to shoppers who make at least two purchases in downtown shops and restaurants on Black Friday or Shop Small Saturday.
Shoppers must present “passports” stamped in two areas in order to use the free service.
Others who would like to use the service will be asked for a donation, based on size and choice of bow.
In the event of inclement weather, the gift-wrapping service will be moved inside The Spot.
“We’re really excited and looking forward to all the different things we have going on for the holidays this year,” Brumley said.
For additional information, call the Main Street office at 870-862-4747.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.