Santa Claus is coming to town ... a bit earlier this year in Ludington.

Santa will appear in Ludington’s Aglow on the Avenue Holiday Parade on a new date this year, this Saturday, Nov. 24 at 6:30 p.m. after several years of the parade being held the first Friday in December.

Santa will ride in the parade Saurday night and stop in front of Ludington’s Christmas tree downtown, at the James Street Plaza, to light it along with Mayor John Henderson before continuing on the parade route, Ludington’s Community Development Coordinator Heather Venzke-Tykoski said.

This is a change from years past, when the tree was lit just prior to the parade. The date has also been changed back to Thanksgiving weekend to coincide with Small Business Saturday.

The tree was decorated Tuesday morning by the staff at Lindsay’s Furniture with help from city workers and features more than just lights.

“A lot of families are home,” said Venzke-Tykoski about having the parade on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. She said the families asked for the parade date to change so they could experience it.

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Kristin O’Hare, events coordinator with the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce, said there are more than 20 entries in this year’s parade, including Miss Ludington Kasey Cole, Harvest Festival queen Jenna Knizacky, and princesses, among other entries. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in a wagon pulled by horses.

In addition to the parade, downtown restaurants have contributed to chili that will be served in front of Sportsman’s Restaurant and Irish Pub. Chili is served for donations to the community’s rotating homeless shelter, Hospitality In the Name of Christ.

Venzke-Tykoski said there are a couple more twists this year, besides the change in date.

After Santa lights the tree, he will go to the Ludington Area Center for the Arts for pictures with children.

An additional event is at BookMark downtown, story time, giving families even more to do.

The Velveteen Rabbit character will greet children, who come to hear the story “The Velveteen Rabbit.”

“Families will get to meet the rabbit and then have an opportunity the next weekend to see the show,” said Venzke-Tykoski about the Lakeside Civic Players’ production at the arts center.

“We are also excited the library will be hosting pre-parade activities,” said O’Hare.

The Ludington library, as it has been in the past, will be open from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday with activities for children prior to the parade.

“It will be a fun afternoon for families in downtown Ludington,” O’Hare said.

Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday started last year in communities across the country. It’s a reminder for people to shop local at the stores in cities’ downtowns.

Special deals are offered on this day. See the ads on page B4-5.

“A large (credit card) company realized that Black Friday overshadows downtown businesses and wanted to try and bring back the joy of holiday shopping,” Venzke-Tykosi said.

Downtowns offer small boutiques, specialized service and shoppers can get to know the owners.

There are quality products and you don’t have to fight with people to purchase something. Most importantly, the money goes back into the community.

It’s often the downtown businesses that sponsor local events, Venzke-Tykoski said.

Shoppers will receive a passport from any store where they make a purchase. The passport can be used through Dec. 21 and once it’s filled, they will be entered into a prize drawing.

“Downtown Ludington wants to respect the holiday for families,” Venzke-Tykoski said.

She said she hopes after people shop, they stay downtown for the parade.

As part of the event, anyone who buys a New Year’s Eve Ball Drop package at the Visitors Center next to Best Choice Market will receive another beverage token for free.

Downtown stores will decorate their storefronts again this year.

A new event this year is a mountain bike race starting in downtown Ludington to coincide with Small Business Saturday. The Singletrack Showdown offers two distances, both starting and ending at the James Street Plaza and including Ludington school forest trails. The race begins at 3:15 p.m., with registration at Trailhead Bike Shop or www.singletrackshowdown.com.

Scottville’s businesses are decorated with wreaths for the season, which shoppers will win as a reward for shopping downtown.

Participants will receive entry forms and drawings will be held Saturday.

Santa will be downtown at Jason’s Main Street Market and Holden’s Home Emporium,.

Scottville Outlet, Lundquist’s Furniture and Beyond the Door Consignment will have food and sales.

Hart has a special promotion linked to Small Business Saturday, but gives shoppers the opportunity to participate even well into the shopping season.

The event continues for two weeks and gives shoppers the opportunity to win up to $500 in Hart Bucks.

Shoppers must stop at one of 13 participating businesses and pick up a Small Business Supporter Card. Receive five punches, one from each purchase, and the card will be entered into a drawing for the Hart Bucks. There is no limit to how many complete Small Business Supporter Cards are entered for the Hart Bucks drawing.

Pentwater holds its annual tree lighting and Santa event Saturday.

Santa arrives on the Village Green at 5 p.m. and other events taking place include chestnut roasting, horse and carriage rides, storefront decorating contest, story time and carolers.

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