There's no sign of the holiday season in Elkins, but a group of volunteers is working hard to make it bright and beautiful when it arrives.
Partnering organizations and local businesses, including the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, Elkins ON TRAC, the Randolph County Development Authority and Kathy's Decorating & Design, are working to light up trees and decorate the downtown area with coordinated displays.
"A committee has begun working diligently, with many great ideas that will brighten our town for the holidays," said ERCCC Executive Director Kate Reed. Those ideas include holiday wreaths with LED lights and bows to be placed on light poles at the Town Square and along Railroad Avenue.
Although it is only August, this is the time to place orders - and fundraising efforts are now under way to support the project. Donations are needed by Aug. 31 in order to purchase the decorations.
"Needless to say, it's an expensive undertaking," Reed said. "We would be very grateful for any and all donations."
Businesses and individuals are invited to sponsor one or more light poles or contribute any amount toward the holiday project. The cost to decorate each pole is $160. Businesses which contribute that amount or more will be featured in a holiday flier distributed during a special event planned for Nov. 9.
To be ready for this event, as well as the area's Christmas shows, train rides, holiday shopping and annual Christmas Parade, decorations will be placed in early November.
Donations of money or time are both welcome, Reed said. Volunteers are needed to help decorate on Nov. 5, 6 and 7 starting at 8 a.m. Volunteers will meet at the Elkins Depot Welcome Center.
Fundraising efforts will not end with the summer.
A Million Penny Campaign will begin soon and continue throughout the holiday season to help fund continued efforts to dress up the town in 2013. Gift box banks will be placed in local businesses where shoppers can donate pennies to the ongoing project.
In addition to decorations, the committee also is planning a variety of activities in downtown Elkins during the holiday season.
Elkins ON TRAC is working with the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad on a promotion in conjunction with the Polar Express holiday trains. The trains will run most Thursdays through Sundays from Nov. 9 through Dec. 15.
"Santa's Workshop" will pair downtown businesses with local artists to provide special activities for visitors and local families on Fridays and Saturdays when the excursion trains are running.
ON TRAC Project Manager Karen Carper said businesses that participate in the promotion will help keep visitors downtown.
"People are looking for other things to do while they are here riding the trains," she said. "We want them to stay downtown instead of going elsewhere."
Sundays will feature outdoor activities, including bonfires and marshmallow roasts. Music and other performances will be scheduled on Thursdays. ON TRAC is also working to fill empty storefronts with temporary businesses such as a holiday sweet shop.
Nearly 10,000 people are expected to visit Elkins during the six-week Polar Express holiday train schedule. Trains were sold out before the first run in 2011, and many dates are already sold out for 2012, according to a railroad official.
The committee plans to have plenty of additional activities for residents and visitors to enjoy this year.
"We are working hard to welcome everyone to our downtown with a festive atmosphere and plenty of fun things to do," Reed said.
She noted the Chamber's annual Christmas Parade is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 30.
Cash contributions to the decorating project can be sent to the ERCCC, 200 Executive Plaza, Elkins WV 26241. Volunteers who wish to help hang lights and wreaths, or businesses interested in having a donation box for the Million Penny Campaign can contact the Chamber at 304-636-2717 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.