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Open House, lights contest highlight holiday activities

Batesville’s Holiday Open House is set for Sunday, Nov. 15, as the city’s businesses prepare for the Christmas shopping season. A full list of merchants who will participate in this year’s event will be published next week by the city’s Main Street Program.

New this holiday season is the Billion Lights of Batesville Christmas light contest with cash prizes for the Best Griswold and Best Window display. Awards will be given to the residences that are most-decorated, and to the city business (Downtown or not) with the best window display for the Christmas season.

Details on how to enter those contests are available on the website of the Panola Partnership by accessing the Main Street Program portion of the site. More will be published in coming weeks about the city’s effort to increase out-of-town traffic during the holidays in hopes of helping local businesses have a robust season of sales.

There will be no train event this year, but city officials are hopeful the train will return with The Polar Express franchise next year. The Polar Express was a popular destination for many in the Batesville trade area and brought hundreds of riders each week before financial problems forced the owner of the train to sell stake three years ago.

Since then the city has hosted a similar event, the Train to Christmas Town, but a minor derailment last year, combined with bad publicity when the new operators would not refund ticket money for some riders, meant Batesville was left without the extra Christmas time traffic in the city last fall and winter.

Mayor Jerry Autrey said last week the city will continue to work to bring The Polar Express back to Batesville,  hopefully for the 2021 season.

The annual Batesville Christmas parade will roll on Tuesday, Dec. 8. Applications for floats and other entries in the parade are being taken now. Any group or organization who wants to be part of the community event should contact Mark Shields at 662-934-1006.