Today is Thanksgiving and after area residents and out-of-town guests have had their fill of turkey and all of the trimmings, they are invited to throw on their pajamas and head to downtown El Dorado to get a jump-start on Black Friday sales.
Presented by the Downtown Business Association, with assistance from Main Street El Dorado, the second annual Black Friday Pajama Party is set for 8 p.m. until midnight.
Several downtown shops will be offering deals, savings and other treats.
Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street El Dorado, encouraged shoppers to arrive early, noting that attendees for the inaugural event in 2020 were hard-pressed to find a prime parking spot in downtown El Dorado.
"It was huge! There wasn't a parking space downtown. Some stores were open after midnight because they still had customers coming in," Brumley said.
"You might want to start early and watch out for some of the boutiques. Some shoppers will be able to get an early preview of what they have for the holidays," she added.
Small Business Saturday
Small Business Saturday will follow, giving shoppers another opportunity to search for the perfect holiday gifts in local, mom-and-pop shops, not only in downtown, but the entire city.
Also known as Shop Small Saturday, the annual shopping holiday is sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday to stoke support for small businesses.
To help draw more foot traffic to downtown shops, Main Street El Dorado will host several auxiliary activities from noon until 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Santa will "fly" his sleigh into downtown to take photos on the northeast corner (Jefferson and Elm) of the Union County Courthouse.
Photos will cost $5.
SRG Realty Group will also distribute cookie kits for children to take home and Barton Library will host Story Time on the southeast corner (Jefferson and Main) of the courthouse.
The holiday train will traverse downtown streets throughout the day, offering free rides to downtown visitors.
Initially, the train rides were to have been paid but Brumley said the train arrived late for the Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony, which was held Nov. 18.
"Since we had already paid for the train for the lighting ceremony, rides are going to be free on Saturday. So come take a train ride while you do your holiday shopping," Brumley said. "All of the stores will be open for their regular hours, if not later."
First Thursday/Christmas Parade
The DBA and MSE are also preparing for First Thursday, during which downtown merchants will remain open until 7 p.m. December's First Thursday will coincide with the El Dorado Christmas Parade, whose 2.5-mile route winds through downtown, a popular spot for spectators.
MSE assists the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce with planning the parade, which is believed to be the largest Christmas parade in aouth Arkansas.
The parade will be presented in its traditional format this year, having been staged in 2020 as a drive-through event at the Union County Fairgrounds due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
MSE is a introducing a new holiday event this year to provide another opportunity for holiday shopping and to assist the Arkansas Women's Business Center.
The Merry Market is set for 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Dec. 4 on Washington Avenue (the west side of the Union County Courthouse).
The Merry Market will offer a wide variety of jewelry, clothing, seasonal items, children's books, holiday treats, handmade crafts and more, with temporary vendors, pop-up shops and downtown merchants.
Admission is $5 and includes a canvas tote bag; entry into the hospitality tent, which will include food and will be heated; a ticket for door-prize drawings that will be held throughout the day; and a "passport" to be stamped by downtown businesses and Merry Market vendors upon making a purchase.
Passports will also be submitted for a Grand Prize drawing for a $200 shopping spree at participating downtown business and four tickets to MAD on Ice.
Ticket-holders must be present to win prizes.
For an additional $10, attendees can take part in the Santa Experience, Brumley said.
"With the Santa Experience, you get your picture made with Santa and you get to make 'reindeer food' -- a bag with oats and bird seed and glitter and a note that tells you what to do," she explained.
"You can sprinkle the reindeer food on your lawn for Christmas Eve to get ready for Santa," Brumley continued.
She also said another special guest, the Grinch, may make an appearance and be available for photos for the day.
Brumley said proceeds from the Merry Market, minus expenses for Main Street, will go to the Arkansas Women's Business Center, which assists entrepreneurs, particularly women and minorities, in starting a business.
For the second consecutive year, the AWBC has canceled its annual Mistletoe Market because of COVID-19, having last hosted the two-day event in 2019 in the First Financial Music Hall at the Murphy Arts District.
The event typically draws dozens of vendors and hundreds of attendees from around the Ark-La-Tex, with a variety of wares for sale.
"Although they're not necessarily downtown, they're still in our wheelhouse of helping small businesses," Brumley said.
Brumley said MSE is working to make sure that the vendors largely carry items that are different from those that are available in downtown shops, noting that merchants will also work to attract Merry Market visitors to their stores.
The AWBC provided Main Street with a list of vendors that regularly set up at the Mistletoe Market, Brumley said, adding there is plenty of space for more vendors.
"We don't have as many as we thought we would. I know some are looking at the weather because they're used to being indoors," she said.
"And with this being two years in a row of them not having it, we don't want the vendors to move on somewhere else so when they (the AWBC) start having it again, the vendors won't say, 'Well, we're here now,'" Brumley continued.
For more information or to sign up as a vendor for the Merry Market, visit www.mainstreeteldorado.org and click on the Merry Market tab.
Also, call the MSE office at 870-862-4747 and leave a message if there is no answer.