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The Hamilton Downtown Association has planned holiday activities for families and shoppers throughout the holiday season, beginning with the popular Tree Lighting ceremony, followed by the arrival of Santa Claus at 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 28.

That event takes place on the south lawn of the Hamilton Post Office, with caroling by the Montana A Capella Society before the event, and the Downtown Christmas Stroll following, as many businesses remain open until 8 p.m., with in-store specials and refreshments for browsers.

The HDA will have cheery warming barrels out on street corners, where families can warm up, and kids can toast marshmallows to make free s’mores.

Downtown will be dressed up for the season, with holiday lights mounted as usual by the Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department, and new lights strung on many of the street trees downtown, courtesy of a grant from Farmers State Bank, and HDA volunteers.

The following day is Small Business Saturday, Nov. 29, a day dedicated to strengthening the community by supporting local small businesses. The HDA will be offering free, horse-drawn trolley rides downtown from 11-2, to celebrate downtown Hamilton’s historic heritage and family-friendly atmosphere. Many local businesses will be offering in-store specials, offering an alternative to the crowds and traffic of “black Friday” shopping.

Many participating stores will sport the “Shop Small” insignia, and American Express cardholders can earn a credit by using their card for qualifying purchases at registered stores; check www.shopsmall.com for details.

The first three December Fridays will offer browsers a reason to return to downtown Hamilton, beginning Friday, Dec. 5, when First Friday events will include a live nativity with carolers, at 206 W. Main St., from 6-8 p.m.

First Friday also marks the beginning of the “Sheep Trail” promotion. The Knotty Knitters of the Bitterroot have handcrafted a dozen sheep, which are “hidden” in downtown stores. Kids can pick up a Sheep Trail map from participating stores, or from the “shepherd” on Main Street, looking for his lost “flock” that night. Find all the sheep, and submit the completed “map,” to enter to win one of the sheep, or other prizes, with a drawing to be held Dec. 22.

The following Friday, Dec. 12, Hamilton celebrates the return of an old-time tradition, the Great Gobbler Give-away. Enter to win one of six free (frozen) turkeys at participating HDA member stores between Dec. 5-12, then come downtown at 7 p.m. on Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. for the drawing – must be present to win! Only one entry per location per day.

Lastly, on Friday, Dec. 19, the HDA celebrates the winter solstice with our Festival of Lights, with luminaria lining downtown sidewalks, warming barrels and s’mores for the kids.

For more information on any of these events, call the HDA at (406) 360-9124.

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