Thousands of people are expected to gather Dec. 6-8 in downtown Delaware for Main Street Delaware's annual Home for the Holidays activities, including a parade and the arrival of Santa Claus himself.

"It has grown every year and has just become absolutely fabulous," said Terri-Lynne Smiles, owner of Greater Gouda, 12 N. Sandusky St., one of the businesses that participates annually.

"There's so much energy downtown. It's a blast, nonstop," she said. "Thousands and thousands of people are downtown the whole weekend.

"We see pretty much everybody from Delaware and all over the county. It's one of the biggest things to do in central Ohio, and we're starting to see people attending from all around Ohio," Smiles said.

Thirty-two businesses will participate during the weekend with open houses and specials, said Susie Bibler, Main Street Delaware executive director.

The annual Home for the Holidays parade will step off at 3 p.m. Dec. 8 from Mingo Park. The parade will head west on Lincoln Avenue, turn south on Sandusky Street and end at the corner of Sandusky and Wilmer streets.

The parade is expected to draw between 75 and 90 units and will include marching bands from Delaware Hayes, Buckeye Valley and Olentangy Berlin high schools, Bibler said.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will ride a horse-drawn carriage in the parade, she said, and the U.S. Postal Service will collect letters from children to Santa at the beginning of the parade.

"Each year, the community shows their love for the Christmas parade by lining the sidewalks all the way down Sandusky, in some places five rows deep. Everyone loves to see the decorated floats, hear the bands and wave to Mr. and Mrs. Claus," Bibler said.

"Our hardworking committee has been planning since January for not only the parade but the entire weekend, and we're looking forward to another memorable holiday experience in our downtown," she said.

The weekend will open Dec. 6 with the annual tree-lighting ceremony at 6:30 p.m. at William and Sandusky streets, plus performances by local musical groups.

Children can visit Santa at the Strand Theatre on East Winter Street from 7 to 9 p.m.

Horse-drawn carriage rides will be available for $1 for passengers older than age 5.

A free Delaware County Transit shuttle will travel back and forth between downtown and the Delaware County parking lot at 145 N. Union St. from 6 to 9:30 p.m.

On Dec. 7, the Dash for Dasher scavenger hunt will be held.

"It is a self-guided scavenger hunt, so anyone wanting to participate can come to the Main Street office at 20 E. Winter St. from noon to 2 p.m. to get their first clue," Bibler said.

Participating businesses will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 7 for a shopping extravaganza, she said. Each business will have cards that patrons can have stamped or initialed at participating businesses.

The cards can be turned in by 6 p.m. at a location to be announced later for a chance to win Chocolate Walk tickets, she said.

The Chocolate Walk will be held Feb. 8, when participating businesses pass out samples of chocolate to ticket purchasers.

Santa will hang out at the Strand from 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 7.

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