As the August days dwindle, you might be wrapping your head around the fact that it's back-to-school time, rolling your eyes at the Halloween decorations lining store shelves or pushing to the farthest corner of your mind that this is the year you said you'd get a new snow blower.

As the August days dwindle, you might be wrapping your head around the fact that it's back-to-school time, rolling your eyes at the Halloween decorations lining store shelves or pushing to the farthest corner of your mind that this is the year you said you'd get a new snow blower.

But Licking County leaders are running full-steam ahead toward the winter holiday season.

On Aug. 23 -- 123 days before Christmas (what, weren't you counting?) -- the Licking County commissioners announced that for the first time in nearly 70 years, the Licking County Courthouse will not be lighted for the holidays.

The ongoing courthouse restoration project has left the 140-year-old building covered in tarps and scaffolding.

But county and community leaders promise a bigger, better holiday celebration in downtown Newark starting the day after Thanksgiving, when the courthouse is traditionally lighted.

Instead, the commissioners announced a partnership with the Canal Market District for the traditional holiday gathering.

The grounds around the courthouse still will be lighted and decorated, but the celebration and arrival of Santa will take place at the market district, just south of Courthouse Square, where there will also be a holiday market, a large community Christmas tree and other decorations.

Organizers also hope to stage a fireworks show that evening.

"I look at this as an enhanced event," said Commissioner Tim Bubb, who wore a Christmas tie Aug. 23 to mark the occasion. "This is a new thing that, in my opinion, expands the celebration of the day."

The newly constructed Canal Market District has held farmers markets twice a week and craft markets once a month throughout the summer. The Christmas market will feature craft vendors, refreshments, local farmers with Christmas trees, greens, garland and other decorations.

"We want to make sure that Licking County still has a place to celebrate Christmas together," said Jazz Glastra, senior operations director for the Canal Market District.

The lighting of the courthouse and square typically brings thousands of visitors on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The commissioners announced the changes this month, Bubb said, because they've already received many questions about what the multimillion-dollar courthouse construction project would mean for the holiday lighting.

The commissioners hope the courthouse restoration work will be completed by the fall of next year, so that the courthouse could be lighted for the holidays again in 2017 in conjunction with the new celebration at the Canal Market District.

"What we're doing here is starting a new tradition," said Commissioner Duane Flowers.

jsmola@dispatch.com

@jennsmola