ELKINS - The holiday season is quickly approaching. Decorations are popping up in town and at local businesses, and the sound of a whistle blowing can be heard as the Polar Express train pulls out of the station.
The holidays, while fun and festive, also can be quite costly. That is why the annual Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade has some exciting, free festivities on tap this year. Some changes also have been made to make events more user friendly and to eliminate wait times, organizers said.
The parade, scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 6 in downtown Elkins, features the theme "Sugar Plums and Christmas Drums."
It will follow a familiar route through town and begin in South Elkins at Wimer Field. The parade will end at the Elkins-Randolph YMCA, where activities such as a puppet show, photos with Santa and refreshments as well as craft projects will be available at no charge.
"I can't think of a better way to bring in the holiday season than to have the entire community delight in the annual Christmas parade and Santa visits," said Jess Arbogast, executive director of the chamber. "This is an event that will bring joy to all as they are entertained by a variety of bands, floats, distinguished guests, youth groups and, of course, Santa Claus!"
There are numerous events that will take place at the conclusion of the parade at the YMCA. The SonShine Puppet Ministry from Otterbein Church in Elkins will perform.
A Christmas card station also will be available for the children while they wait to see Santa. Cards that are colored and decorated by the children will be donated to local hospitals and nursing homes, so the joy of the season can be shared with those who are unable to attend the festivities. Refreshments will be served to the children while they decorate their cards, watch the puppet show and make their wish lists to give to Santa.
The Inter-Mountain once again will provide a photographer to take photos with Santa. In order to cut down on wait times, one photo will be taken per family, and there is no charge to receive one printed image. Pictures will be available for pickup at the paper's office or may be mailed upon request. Photo CDs also will be available for a nominal fee.
In addition, parents and children will not have to wait in line this year to see Santa and Mrs. Claus. Rather, they will be given a number and can partake in activities until their number is called.
Classic Christmas movies will play while children look forward to their visit with Santa. Little ones also will be able to give St. Nick their wish list when they come in for their photo. In exchange, Santa will hand out treat bags.
"We are doing things a little differently this year, and our goal is to provide the community with family friendly activities and a wonderful holiday experience. We are thrilled to have the SonShine Puppet Ministry as part of our entertainment for the children and their families as they wait to see Santa and Mrs. Claus," Arbogast said.
"Also, while they wait, they will have the chance to fill out their wish-list, sing Christmas carols, watch classic Christmas movies and decorate holiday cards that will be donated to the local hospital and nursing homes. We really want to spread joy throughout the community by involving as many people as possible."
The chamber encourages area residents to come out and enjoy this annual celebration. Also, plans for the parade are underway and entries still are being accepted. Entry forms are available through the chamber at 304-636-2717. Each year the parade averages 50 entries. This year's main sponsor is Frontier
Chamber officials ask that parade participants refrain from throwing candy during the event. Rather, they are invited to donate candy for inclusion in the treat bags.