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Even if a giant tray of gourmet cookies from Bernice’s Bakery wasn’t on the line, Noteworthy Paper & Press would still be plotting a special eye-catching window display for the holidays.

This year, the shop on Higgins Avenue in downtown Missoula will focus its creativity on telling a story about the journey of children’s letters to Santa, said Amy Dolan, who co-owns Noteworthy with Taylor Valliant.

“We have a lot of fun coming up with an idea and putting it into production,” Dolan said. “We feel it is a gift to Missoula, and we really love the response we get from the community.”

Despite stiff competition from other stores, Noteworthy is a perennial favorite and winner in the Missoula Downtown Association’s annual holiday window decorating contest.

This weekend, all of the shops are hoping to have their storefronts fully dressed for the season and for the all-day Parade of Lights celebration, which takes place Saturday.

Even more to the point, voting for favorite windows officially begins on Monday and continues through Friday, said Colin Hickey, marketing and events director for the Missoula Downtown Association.

“To vote, people can go online to our website,” Hickey said. “It’s always a popular contest.”

Among the categories up for a vote: Most Elegant, Most Festive and Kids’ Favorite.

Downtown Missoula will be a flurry of holiday fun and glamour Saturday when activities surrounding the 10th annual Parade of Lights begin at 9 a.m. with a Teddy Bear Tea.

This year, Santa will be back in the Florence Building lobby, holding court and listening to Christmas wishes.

Free horse-drawn carriage rides will carry people up and down Higgins, thanks to a steady team provided by the Resort at Paws Up, Hickey said.

In all, 19 children’s events will be held throughout the day.

“It’s a great time for everybody,” Hickey said. “And the parade will be extra special this year, with 26 floats.”

As is tradition, the parade will begin at the Missoulian, 500 S. Higgins Ave., and conclude at the X’s at the north end of Higgins, where a bonfire will be blazing. Missoula’s Christmas tree will be lit at 6:30 p.m., and free cocoa, coffee and cookies will be available. The Christian Life Center choir will perform a holiday concert to help keep the cheer going.

The event has become a Missoula tradition, said Linda McCarthy, the Downtown Association’s executive director.

“This event is a gift to the community,” she said. “Our way of saying, ‘Thank you, Missoula,’ for supporting downtown.”

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The following is a schedule of events for the 10th annual Parade of Lights:

Saturday

• 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.: Teddy Bear Tea, Families First Children’s Museum. Cost $7.

• 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.: Free Gift Wrapping, MSO Hub.

• 11:30 a.m.- 4 p.m.: Story and Craft Time, Missoula Public Library.

• 12-12:30 p.m.: Drop-in Holiday Project, Missoula Art Museum.

• 12-3 p.m.: Tour of the Trees, Holiday Inn Downtown.

• 1-3 p.m.: Festive Ice Skating Pom Poms, Loopy Knit and Crochet.

• 1-3 p.m.: Ornament Making, Noteworthy Paper & Press. Cost $3.

• 1-5 p.m.: Carriage Rides, loading zone is corner of Higgins Avenue and Pine Street.

• 1- 5 p.m.: Pine Cone Holiday Trees, Walking Stick Toys.

• 1- 5 p.m.: Cookie Decorating, Bernice’s Bakery.

• 1-5 p.m.: Photos and Caroling with Santa, Florence Building.

• 1- 5 p.m.: Family Holiday Movies, Roxy Theater.

• 1-5 p.m.: Christmas Card Workshop, Zootown Arts Community Center.

• 1- 5 p.m.: Pony Rides with Dunrovin Ranch, Big Dipper Ice Cream.

• 2- 5 p.m.: S’more Making, A Carousel for Missoula.

• 3-5 p.m.: Felt Creatures, Selvedge Studio. Cost $5.

• 3- 5 p.m.: Santa’s Cookie Plate Workshop, Betty’s Divine. Cost $10.

• 6 p.m.: Parade of Lights, Higgins Avenue.

• 6:30 p.m.: Lighting of the Tree and Bonfire, North Higgins Avenue at the X’s.

For more information, contact the Missoula Downtown Association at 543-4238 or at www.missouladowntown.com.

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at bcohen@missoulian.com.

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