Santa will make several stops in Delaware County ahead of Dec. 25 as local communities prepare for the holiday season.
In Delaware, the monthly First Friday celebration will take on a holiday hue at 6 p.m. Dec. 1 in the city's downtown. The event will feature carriages, carolers, Santa and reindeer, as well as the annual lighting of the downtown Christmas tree.
Susie Bibler, executive director of Main Street Delaware, said First Friday kicks off three days of celebration in the city. She said owners of downtown businesses are thrilled with the plan and the "Home for the Holidays" theme.
"They thought it would be great if we did a whole weekend-long event," she said.
Downtown will play host to a scavenger hunt dubbed Dash for Dasher from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 2. Children can search for clues to help Santa recover his lost reindeer during the event.
After Dash for Dasher ends, families can visit with Santa from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Strand Theatre, 28 E. Winter St.
The weekend will wrap up with the city's Christmas parade, which steps off from Mingo Park at 3 p.m. Dec. 3.
While the city traditionally has hosted its annual Christmas parade in late November, Bibler said public feedback led organizers to select a date after Thanksgiving. She said she did not hear too many good reasons for conducting the parade more than a month before Christmas.
"It came down to, this is the way it's always been done," she said. "I don't like that answer."
A skating rink will be open to the public the entire weekend outside the Willis Education Center, 74 W. William St.
"We're super-excited about it," Bibler said. "It's a plastic material ... so it's not weather-dependent."
In Sunbury, a year after the largest Christmas on the Square ever, organizers are hoping for even more growth for the village's holiday celebration.
This year's event, hosted by the Sunbury Big Walnut Area Chamber of Commerce, will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Dec. 2 on the Town Square.
Last year, the chamber's newly hired Executive Director John Fox helped organize the event, which drew the largest crowd in its history with about 7,000 visitors. Fox said that turnout has led to increased sponsor interest, which in turn means more amenities for the event.
"This year, more than any I've seen, we have more of the higher-cost sponsorships than we've ever had," he said. "I think a lot of businesses -- and there were some new ones -- really benefited from (last year's attendance), so this year, they really jumped right in."
Christmas on the Square will feature ice sculpting, wood carving, Santa and Mrs. Claus, a lighted parade, a disc jockey, caroling, a cookie and candy contest and a doughnut-eating contest. Shops around the square will stay open late, many offering activities for children or other diversions.
"It's a lot of the same stuff, but there's more of it," Fox said with a laugh.
Fox had been in his position for just a few months before last year's edition of the event. This year, with a full year and a half under his belt, he said he's had more time to plan outreach and publicity.
In the process, he said he's trying to get a new crop of residents interested in events in the village.
"We're trying to reach all these new developments in Sunbury," he said. "Where I live, there are people who didn't even know there was a square here."
Fox said he isn't opposed to the event's continued growth, but also doesn't want it to get too large that it loses its community feel. He said he and the chamber are mulling what kinds of vendors are allowed and how many activities are too many.
While he hopes for even more than 7,000 visitors this year -- especially if the weather is nice -- he's mostly happy that people are enjoying what the chamber is offering.
"The word is getting out that it's a great event and this is a cool place to be," he said.
In Powell, holiday festivities start at 2 p.m. Dec. 2 when the city hosts the annual Holidays in Powell event at the Municipal Building, 47 Hall St.
City spokeswoman Megan Canavan said the celebration will be "pretty much the same traditional event we have from year to year."
"Of course, the main attraction is Santa Claus," she said.
The event will feature carolers, complimentary hot chocolate and materials children can use to create ornaments. Kids also can write and drop off letters to Santa, who will send a response.
"It's a great event for families," Canavan said.
At least one animal visitor from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is expected to arrive about 2:30 p.m.
Canavan said downtown businesses have been encouraged to conduct "holiday open houses" or offer specials during the event.
Options for county residents seeking impressive light displays include Butch Bando's Fantasy of Lights and Wildlights.
Butch Bando's Fantasy of Lights, formerly known as Alum Creek Fantasy of Lights, runs evenings through Jan. 1 at the Alum Creek State Park campgrounds, 3311 S. Old State Road, Delaware. Pricing and additional information is available at butchbandosfantasyoflights.com.
Wildlights runs evenings at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium through Jan. 1. For more information, visit columbus zoo.org.
Orange Township will welcome the season with a new holiday celebration, set to run from 4 to 6 p.m. Dec. 3 at Orange Township Hall, 1680 E. Orange Road, Lewis Center.
The event will feature stations where children can make crafts and write letters to Santa Claus, who also will make an appearance.
The celebration also will feature the lighting of the township's holiday tree.
Santa won't forget about Galena; he'll stop by the village's tree-lighting ceremony, which is set from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 3 on the Village Square.