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story.lead_photo.caption The El Dorado Children's Choir sings on the Union County Courthouse Steps during the Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony in 2019. (News-Times file)

Hometown is Downtown for the Holidays and Main Street El Dorado is inviting the community to celebrate Christmas traditions and to check off their holiday shopping lists in downtown El Dorado.

Main Street is teaming up with the Downtown Business Association and Murphy USA to present the Home is Downtown El Dorado for the Holidays promotion and theme with a series of festive events that have been planned this month with coronavirus (COVID-19) health and safety protocols in mind.

“Let’s All Open Together” is the tagline for the promotion in a nod to the holiday shopping season and encourages residents to shop locally.

Festivities range from the annual Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony to Black Friday sales events, an opportunity to visit with Santa and drawings and prize giveaways in November and December.

Gauging the number of trick-or-treaters and their families who traversed downtown during Scare on the Square, Main Street El Dorado board members said the earlier this week that the community seems to be hungering for fun activities, many of which have been muted this year because of the public health crisis.

Scare was held Oct. 31. Downtown businesses handed out candy to trick or treaters as part of an overall promotion to help boost foot traffic for retail shops.

“Scare on the Square was fantastic. Main Street gave out over 4,000 pieces of candy. Most businesses did bundles. Most did 1,000 packs of candy and one store did 1,500. They were out by 3:30 and it was supposed to be from 12 to 4 (p.m.),” Brumley said.

MSE board members said they are anticipating a similar response to the holiday events.

“We all need a little Christmas with everything that’s been going on this year,” said Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street El Dorado.

“We want to make it as normal as possible for 2020 and it helps the merchants, who have had a tough year and who already rely on the holidays and fourth-quarter sales to close out the year,” Brumley said.

The downtown holiday event schedule is:

Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony, the unofficial kick-off to the holiday season in El Dorado, is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Nov. 19, on the east (Jefferson Avenue) side of the Union County Courthouse.

The night will be filled with live entertainment from local dance groups, singers and other performers.

Brumley said MSE narrowed down the entertainment roster this year to help keep everyone safe, noting that four singing groups and two dance groups are slated to perform.The crowd size within the event area will also be limited to the first 330 people as part of an event plan that was approved by the Arkansas Department of Health.

“It’ll be first come. People will enter at Jefferson and Main and exit at the intersection of Jefferson and Elm. It’ll be one way for foot traffic,” Brumley explained.

“We will have counters to click them out and let them in. We realize it’s a pain but that’s the only way we could figure out how to do it and still be in compliance (with COVID-19 guidelines),” she added. “People who don’t get in can still see and hear what’s going on across the street.”

The Salvation Army of El Dorado will hand out free cookies and hot chocolate to the crowd and launch its 2020 Red Kettle Campaign, an annual holiday fundraiser to help families in need.

First responders — law enforcement officers, firefighters and health care workers — will be honored during the ceremony and will conduct the ceremonial “flipping of the switch” to turn on the holiday lights.

Said Brumley, “Just because of the events of that have gone on this year, we thought who better to honor?”

Local television news station KTVE will also broadcast its weather report live on location.

Window Decorating Contest: The community will be invited to help pick a winner in a contest that starts on the night of the lighting ceremony and is open to downtown merchants.

The deadline is Monday to submit entry forms to MSE.

Displays must capture the Hometown is Downtown for the Holidays theme. Entries will be judged on visual impact, creativity, overall use of the theme and incorporation of store products.

Prizes will be awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners. A winner will also be selected for the People’s Choice award.

The community will be able to take selfies and vote on their favorite window display by submitting the photos to www.mainstreeteldorado.org or the Main Street El Dorado Facebook page.

Contest winners will be announced at 5:30 p.m. on First Thursday — 4 until 7 p.m., December 3 — on local radio station KIX 103, who will be broadcasting live from downtown El Dorado

Downtown Holiday Open House is set for 1 until 4 p.m. on Nov. 22.

Shoppers are encouraged to stroll downtown to see what’s new for the holiday season and take advantage of specials, sales and treats that will be offered at retail stores and restaurants for a safe and enjoyable shopping and dining experience.

Black Friday: Twelve downtown businesses will open from 8 p.m. until midnight on Thanksgiving on Nov. 26 to offer Black Friday deals. Merchants will throw a pajama party so feel free to wear your PJs!

Shop Small Saturday is slated for Nov. 28.

The national campaign is promoted by American Express to encourage Americans to make a big impact by shopping small and supporting mom-and-pop businesses.

Stores will open at 10 a.m. in downtown El Dorado.

Santa will also arrive on his sleigh and will be available for photo ops from noon until 4 p.m.

Photos with Santa will be free for shoppers who present receipts that list purchases from downtown shops and restaurants between Nov. 22 and Nov. 28. Photos will be $5 without a receipt.

Shoppers may use their cellphone or cameras to snap their own photos or ask a Main Street El Dorado representative to take a photo.

“He won’t hold the kids. They won’t be able to sit on Santa’s lap but he will bring his sleigh and park it on courthouse lawn so Santa and his sleigh will be in background for pictures,” said Brumley.

Holiday drawings, giveaways and gift cards

Not sure what to get for a family member, friend or co-worker this Christmas?

Main Street El Dorado gift cards can make great Christmas gifts and are available for purchase throughout the holiday season, MSE board members said.

Gift cards are $25 each and may be used like cash at participating downtown businesses.

Those who purchase gift cards between Nov. 19 and Dec. 3 will be eligible to enter a drawing to win a $250 Main Street Gift Card. Participants may register for the giveaway during any of the downtown holiday events, including the lighting ceremony, open house, Black Friday and Shop Small Saturday.

The drawing will be held during the First Thursday event in December when downtown shops will remain open until 7 p.m.

With the purchase of a $5 ticket, one lucky winner will walk away with a holiday gift basket with prizes valued at $3,600 in a contest that is sponsored by the Downtown Business Association.

Prizes will be donated by downtown businesses and proceeds will go toward the Main Street program.

For more information or to purchase a gift card or ticket for the prize giveaways, call the MSE office at 870-862-4747. Also, visit www.mainstreeteldorado.org or the MSE Facebook page.

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