ONEONTA _ The downtown merchants group Main Street Oneonta has planned events associated with the upcoming holiday season, including the arrival of Santa Claus on Saturday.

Already under way, organizers said, is the annual gingerbread contest, sponsored by Main Street Oneonta, Benson Agency Real Estate and the Greater Oneonta Historical Society, The contest offers $2,000 in prize money.

Organizers said gingerbread construction is a creative and fun activity for a group, individual or family. There are three categories: Family, young adult (ages 12-17) and giant _ a new category to allow for bigger displays. Contestants may create designs on any theme. There will be $1,200 in prizes awarded in the three categories. A historical category offers $450 in prizes, and best of show wins $250.

Entry deadline is Nov. 27. Forms and more details are available by calling 434-6755 or (800) 843-3394 or e-mailing mainstreetoneonta@hotmail.com.

The grand opening of the display is Nov. 29 during the downtown tree-lighting ceremony. Entries will be displayed in downtown Oneonta through Jan. 2.

Santa's arrival

Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive downtown at 11 a.m. Saturday on their horse-drawn wagon. A parade, which will line up at 10:15 a.m. on Elm Street, will escort them down Main Street from Elm Street. The parade will include community groups, floats, dancers, singers, horses and a juggler.

Santa will take up residence in his cottage in Muller Plaza to visit with children and hear their Christmas wishes.

Families may attend the free screening of "Shrek 3" at the Oneonta Theatre at 9 a.m. before the parade. Nonperishable food donations are requested in lieu of a ticket price.

Prizes will be awarded to the top three floats, and groups can win prizes for "most spirited," "most delightful" and "most likely to get oohs and aahs from the crowd.''

Tree-lighting upcoming

The annual tree-lighting and family festival will feature Mayor John Nader lighting the community Christmas tree in Muller Plaza at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29.

In addition, Santa will be there to visit with children, while Mrs. Claus tells holiday tales at the Greater Oneonta Historical Society at 183 Main St. from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

There also will be a live reindeer display and horse-drawn wagon rides, presenters said. The street will be lit by candlelight. Visitors will be serenaded by carolers and music, and hot cider and refreshments will be available, presenters said.

Main Street will be closed to traffic from 5 to 8 p.m. that night.

For more information about downtown Oneonta holiday events, call 434-6755 or visit www.mainstreetoneonta.com.

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