A full slate of festivities — ranging from a downtown party later this month to the Joplin Christmas parade early next followed by a holiday tour of seasonally bedecked homes and lofts — is planned for Joplin's holiday season.

Holiday themed events and fundraisers are already underway.

The annual Gift of Light, Gift of Love Tree Lighting and sale to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities and Keeping Families Close opened Thursday night and continues through Saturday in the Macy's court at Northpark Mall.

Seasonal kickoff

The city's official kickoff event, called the "Downtown Lighting Celebration," will take place Monday, Nov. 25. It is cooperatively planned by the city of the Joplin, the Joplin Parks and Recreation Department and the Downtown Joplin Alliance.

The city will close Main Street from Second to Seventh Street starting at 5 p.m. that day for a family event that will start with a kids craft session at Spiva Park. Set amid the sounds of holiday music, cookies and cocoa will be served while children create their artwork and await the arrival of Santa Claus at 5:30 p.m. Children can strike a pose with the jolly old elf himself for photographs.

The official lighting ceremony will start at 6 p.m. at the park with a light show that will be set to music. Carla Bond, of the parks department, said the light show has been expanded this year. Residents also will find lighted sculptures installed by the parks department illuminating Campbell Parkway along Murphy Boulevard.

Kickoff participants may stroll from the park to City Hall, where a classic Christmas show will be shown at 6:30 p.m. on the park department's portable movie screen.

Visitors also can take in the decorated windows of downtown businesses as part of a holiday window decorating contest that will be put on by the Downtown Joplin Association. Those who view the windows can fill out a ballot to vote for their favorites in three decorating themes, which can be deposited at City Hall before leaving the downtown celebration. The ballots will be available at Spiva Park.

"The window contest is a good way to promote downtown businesses, their specials and all the seasonal fun things downtown," said Shelby Witzman of the Downtown Joplin Alliance.

This year the contest will seek votes for the windows that display the most humorous display, the most lighted display and the most festive. Witzman said the organization expects 15 to 20 downtown businesses as well as City Hall to participate.

Those who do not attend the kickoff or want to vote later may turn in ballots later at the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau office in City Hall. Trophies in each of the three categories will be awarded to the winners at the end of the season

"I grew up in Joplin, so seeing these things is really fun because it really speaks to who we are," Witzman said. "We would definitely invite people to come out and enjoy the lights and the cocoa and the cookies and the movie and all the things the season brings."

Parade prep

The Christmas parade will take viewers on a tour of "Christmas Through the Decades," the theme this year for the event on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

About 25 entries have already signed up, and there is room for another 50.

Elizabeth Syer, spokesman for parade organizer Freeman Health System, said that school bands are being encouraged to participate. Vendors and food trucks also may register to sell items at the event.

Entry fees are $50 for business entries and vendors and food trucks, and $15 for not-for-profit organizations. Schools and bands may sign up for free.

All proceeds go to the local Children’s Miracle Network.

The final day to register for the parade is Nov. 22. Entries can be submitted online at https://joplinchristmasparade2019.eventbrite.com.

Home for the holidays

A local historic worship center and nine homes in a variety of styles decorated for the holidays will be part of the Holiday Homes Tour to be offered Saturday, Dec. 14. The tour will be sponsored by the Murphysburg Historic Residential District.

Four of the homes will be in Murphysburg, three are in the nearby North Heights neighborhood, and two are downtown lofts.

The tour starts at Unity of Joplin, 204 N. Jackson Ave. Tickets can be purchased there from noon to 5 p.m. The tour will be open from 1 to 6 p.m. Tickets that day are $25, but they can be purchased online at murphysburg.org in advance for $20 or at Blythe Mercantile, 107 W. Second St.

Other Joplin events

Letters From Santa

• Kids can write a letter to Santa and drop it in Santa's Mailbox at the Joplin Parks and Recreation Department at the Joplin Athletic Complex, 3301 W. First St., or at Academy Sports & Outdoors, and it will be delivered to the North Pole. Santa will write back to the children if their letters are received by Dec. 9. Be sure children include their full names, wish lists and return addresses.

Address letters to Santa’s Workshop, 9 Reindeer Road, North Pole.

Breakfast with Santa

• 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at Memorial Hall, 212 W. Eighth St. Cost is $6 per person, free for children under 2.

Candy Cane Hunt

• 6 p.m. Friday, Dec.13, at the Joplin Senior Center, 2616 S. Picher Ave. The candy canes will be spread through Mercy Park for children to find. Open to ages 3 to 10; cost is $6 per child.

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