The Mountain Home Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas parade will expand into a full-blown downtown festival this year.

The Mountain Home Town Christmas Festival will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6 and will include a footrace for a diamond pendant, the Christmas parade, and the lighting of a 30-foot Christmas tree on the Veterans Plaza. Other festival attractions will include a photo booth for pictures with Santa, vendor booths, food trucks and live music.

“The Christmas parade is always such a big deal and draws so many people downtown, we felt that expanding it into a festival was the next step,” said Angela Broome, the Chamber’s executive vice president. “People come out hours in advance (of the parade), and this gives them something to do once they are here.”

The inaugural Santa’s Diamond Dash will be held at 5:30 p.m. that evening. The parade will roll through downtown at 6 p.m., with the lighting of the giant Christmas tree to follow the parade’s conclusion.

Participants in the Diamond Dash will be vying to win either a diamond pendant necklace or a diamond charm bracelet provided by Gregory Jewelers. The diamond dashers will run a one-mile course that begins around Clark Office Supplies and ends at First Security Bank, essentially running the Christmas parade route in reverse. The first-place winner will receive the diamond pendant while the diamond bracelet will be awarded to the runner demonstrating the most Christmas spirit.

The Dash’s starting time and ending location was not an accident, Broome said.

“We wanted the runners to be able to participate in the parade if they wanted to,” she said. “This way, they end the race at the parade’s gathering point and can ride on a float if they want to.”

Anytime Fitness is serving as the Diamond Dash’s organizer. Entry fees for Santa’s Diamond Dash is $15 before Friday and $20 after that date. Would-be participants can find registration forms online at the Chamber’s website, its Facebook page or at its business office. All runners will receive T-shirts and gift bags.

The First Security Bank Tree Lighting will be held following the conclusion of the parade. Officials will flip the switch to illuminate a 30-foot Christmas tree displayed at the Veterans Plaza. The tree’s height should rival that of the Baxter County Courthouse, which has three floors of offices above ground.

First Security Bank is also sponsoring charity trees that will be scattered around the Veterans Plaza during the festival. Each tree will represent a different local charity and will have a drop box for festival attendees to donate cash or gift cards to that specific charity.

Some of the local organizations that will be represented with charity trees are Alpha House, Gamma House, Kindness Inc., the Literacy Council, the Mountain Home Food Basket, Santa to the Seniors, Serenity Inc., the Bob Davis Veterans Center and The CALL of Baxter County.

This year’s parade theme is “Santa’s Workshop,” and Broome said she expects the parade to have between 45 and 50 floats representing local businesses, community groups and churches.

“You see all the people that turn out for the parade every year, and there’s a lot of businesses that really get into the spirit with their floats,” Broome said.

Participation in the Christmas parade is free to Chamber members and $25 for other entries. All entries will be judged against one another with first-, second- and third-place winners being announced afterwards.

Parade participants should stay away from having one or more Santas on their floats, Broome said. The official Christmas parade Santa is always the final float in the parade line.

“There’s only one Santa, so we ask that people not have extra ones on their floats,” Broome said. “We don’t want to confuse the little kids.”

Space is still available for vendors interested in having a booth at the festival. Would-be vendors should contact the Chamber for more information.

“As long as there is space, we’ll keep taking vendors. I would like to see some of our local retailers out there,” Broome said. “People can come out, do some Christmas shopping, get something to eat and then watch the parade and Christmas tree lighting.”

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