Wreathes, trees and a certain jolly man's home have gone up downtown in preparation for a weekend-long celebration, dedicated to coming home for the holidays.
From Friday night's Billtown Christmas Parade to the Festival of Lights Sunday in Brandon Park, the city has planned an entire Home for the Holidays Weekend, a mix of a decades-old tradition and something new, designed to keep people entertained all weekend long, while bringing business downtown, said Justin S. Simpson, city recreation director.
"(Home for the Holidays) brings everyone back with a weekend event," Simpson said. "There's something to do every day."
Dale Schenck, of Smith Special Productions, cleans up the candy cane balloon at Pickelner Arena Wednesday. All balloons were inflated with air to clean, check for and repair leaks, and prepare handling lines for the city’s Holiday Parade Friday night.
The weekend begins with the mayor's annual tree lighting ceremony and entertainment at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Santa Village, on the municipal lot at the southwest corner of West Fourth and Hepburn streets.
Shortly after Mayor Gabriel J. Campana lights up the tree and village, the 63rd annual parade will kick off at 6 p.m. at Elmira and Third streets.
Seven giant helium balloons will bobble along the parade route, including a candy cane balloon, presented by Rettew and Comcast, along with Providence Engineering Corp. and Moran Industries; a happy face balloon, sponsored by Happy Acres Resort, Restaurant and Lounge; Snowflakes the Snowman, presented by Turn Key Construction; a football balloon, sponsored by Pepsi; a green holiday ornament presented in the parade by Marty and Betty, the Carpet Ladies of Loudenslagers Carpet Corner; Robert the Reindeer, sponsored by Susquehanna Health; and a red Santa ornament sponsored by Trigar Tire and Auto Service.
Santa will greet children after the parade at his home in Santa Village.
The celebrations continue Saturday with Victorian Christmas, presented by Preservation Williamsport from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Historic District.
This year's theme, "It Starts with a Story," is tied in with a new stop along the route of Victorian-era homes and buildings to be toured - the James V. Brown Library, where an exhibit is planned on the life of Charles Dickens.
But that is just one stop on a list of dozens of places that are opening their doors for the tour, now in its 14th year.
Also downtown from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, free Santa visits and train rides around the parking lot will be available at Santa's House.
New this year to welcome the Williamsport Outlaws is a Winter Wonderland at Airmen Pond, Simpson said.
The festivities begin at 6 p.m. at Airmen Pond at Bowman Field and will feature an ice skating Santa, a 35-foot tall penguin and plenty of Christmas atmosphere, including music and decorations, he said.
On Sunday, the annual Festival of Lights begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Dr. Kenneth Cooper Band Shell in Brandon Park.
Free horse-drawn rides will be available, as will refreshments.
Winners of the mayor's annual writing contest will read their entries. This year's theme is "What the holiday season means to me," Simpson said.
Kindergarten to eighth-grade students were invited to participate in the essay contest conducted by the YMCA.
Capping off the weekend is a "Kick Off the Holidays" concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Community Arts Center, featuring the Williamsport Symphony Orchestra, the Billtown Brass and VJQ.