CEDAR FALLS | The "elves” have been busy readying downtown Cedar Falls for the holiday season.

On Tuesday, more than 30 volunteers, plus members of the Community Main Street Design and Holiday Hoopla committees, wrapped light poles in garland and lights, hung holiday banners and assembled Santa’s Workshop. Members of the Waterloo Black Hawks hockey team even pitched in.

"Those guys are used to the cold, so we are really happy to have them,” said Carol Lilly, Community Main Street executive director.

In addition to sprucing up the downtown, they were setting the stage for Holiday Hoopla, Community Main Street’s weeks-long holiday celebration that includes everything from horse-drawn trolley rides to Breakfast at the North Pole.

The Holiday Hoopla Kick-off event will be Nov. 29 with live music and entertainment starting at 6 p.m. at the stage at Fourth and Main streets. The band WAGG and other local singers will perform holiday favorites. "Alvin and the Chipmunks” will be on hand, and Kevin Barnes, a Cedar Falls native and Las Vegas magician, will entertain the crowd.

Of course, the highlight of the evening will be the arrival of Santa Claus. In past years, the jolly old elf has rappelled down a building and arrived via helicopter, train and a giant sleigh. Committee members aren’t revealing what they have up their collective sleeve this year.

"It’s our fifth year, so you know we’re going big,” said Emily Yaddof, CMS events and promotions coordinator.

Following the big entrance, attendees are invited to join Mr. and Mrs. Claus in the Magical March Down Main Street for the lighting of the Hoopla Tree at First and Main streets. Activities will conclude with a fireworks display.

PIPAC, Bike Tech, Viking Pump and Cup of Joe are sponsoring the evening’s activities.

The kick-off is Community Main Street’s biggest event of the year.

"The first year, we were worried not many people would show up,” said Lea Ann Saul, Holiday Hoopla chairwoman. “We had about 500 people that year.”

Last year’s event drew more than 4,000, and more are expected this year.

"It’s pretty amazing how it has continued to grow,” Saul said.

Saul has been involved with Holiday Hoopla since its inception.

"It’s in my nature,” she said. “I love the challenge. I love downtown Cedar Falls. … I’ve been to some of the major cities at holiday time. It’s magical, and that’s something I wanted to bring to Cedar Falls. I don’t know if I’ll ever give it up.”

The kick-off event is just the beginning of the holiday fun.

Some downtown businesses will participate in the Window Wonderland Contest, and new this year is the Window Scavenger Hunt. Participants can search for unique items placed in merchants’ windows. Entry forms and photos can be found in the holiday edition of the Main Street Record, which was mailed to Cedar Falls residents this week, or online at www.communitymainstreet.org. The winner will receive a $50 gift certificate redeemable at any downtown store.

Special Hoopla events include merchant open houses during Jingle and Mingle on Dec. 5, Breakfast at the North Pole on Dec. 7, the Hoopla Cheer and Santa’s Beard contests Dec. 12, Santa’s Snow Shuffle 5K Fun Run/Walk on Dec. 14, Baby It’s Cold Outside on Dec. 19 and a showing of the movie “Prancer” on Dec. 21.

Ongoing Holiday Hoopla events include the Salvation Army Toy Drive from Nov. 29 to Dec. 9, coloring contest from Nov. 29 to Dec. 16, Letters to Santa from Nov. 29 to Dec. 19, Santa’s Workshop on Thursdays and Saturdays Nov. 29 to Dec. 21 and a live nativity and trolley rides Thursdays from Dec. 5 to 17.

For more information, go to www.cfholidayhoopla.com.

General assignment reporter and columnist at The Courier

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