This holiday season, The Inter-Mountain is encouraging downtown businesses to decorate their halls - as well as windows, walls and doors - with boughs of bright red holly, shiny silver ornaments and bow-wrapped wreaths.
In conjunction with ON TRAC - a local organization that promotes downtown revitalization and community development - the newspaper is staging a holiday decorating contest designed to prompt area businesses and organizations to put their best faces forward early in the season, prior to an influx of visitors flowing into the area for festive events.
The deadline by which businesses and organizations should be fully adorned is Nov. 9, the first date that the Polar Express train will run into town. That's also the day The Inter-Mountain will judge the efforts of participating entities and award first-, second- and third-place plaques to the decorators whose facades sparkle with the brightest Christmas spirit. A People's Choice honor will also be awarded.
Karen Carper, ON TRAC project manager/VISTA, said the downtown decoration initiative has received widespread financial and in-kind support. Having raised $10,000, members of ON TRAC, the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, the Randolph County Development Authority, Kathy's Decorating and Design and a group of volunteers will take to the streets Nov. 5-7 to spruce up the trees in the downtown area with solar-powered LED lights - and that's just one of several beautification efforts the group will undertake.
"We're really working to make downtown Elkins just gorgeous during the holidays," Carper said. "I know it's early, but the contest is to help people get a jump on (decorating)."
Brenda Pritt, executive director of the Randolph County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the addition of Polar Express train rides - which whisks families away on a magical tour of the North Pole complete with hot chocolate and a complimentary silver bell - will continue to attract a steady stream of visitors from across the state and nation to Elkins and Randolph County.
So will classic Christmas shows, such as the American Mountain Theater's "Christmas Spectacular" and the Gandy Dance Theatre's "Mountain Memories Christmas."
"Those are the biggest draws because for a whole month people are seeing the shows," Pritt said. "I just think (decorations) are a nice welcome not only for visitors, but for family members who are visiting relatives here and skiiers that are actually going through the area from one resort to the other.
"They'll see town when it's inviting, and everybody loves Christmas," she added. "I even think it kind of needs to be countywide because there are different portals of entry into the county. We've really got a lot going for us this season."
Bright lights and a festive Main Street milieu is more likely to bring visitors back, said Robbie Morris, executive director of the Randolph County Development Authority. And that is an obvious boon for local businesses.
"The tourism industry is an extremely important part of the Randolph County economy, so anything that businesses can do to enhance the experience of tourists while they're here would be an added bonus to their experience," Morris said. "With the success of the Polar Express and the Durbin and Green Valley Railroad, thousands of people will be coming into Randolph County and into Elkins."
"The better experience tourists have anywhere, the more likely they are to come back," he continued, "and I think decorating for the holiday season in conjunction with all the activities we have to offer really shows off the best of Randolph County."
Stay tuned for more details in an upcoming edition of The Inter-Mountain.
Contact Katie Kuba via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.