It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas as Ron Meyers' Christmas City returns to the Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi this weekend.
This is the first year the event will offer three days of Christmas shopping and family fun. Hours will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Meyers, producer of the event, said he hopes the addition of Friday will offer a quieter experience for seniors.
"We got to a point, especially with the Saturday crowds so big, that we needed another day for customers to spill over. On Friday it will not be nearly as hectic," Meyers said.
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This is the sixth year the Southeast Tourism Society named Christmas City a Top 20 tourism event based on its economic impact. Meyers said that stamp of approval can entice visitors to make an overnight stay to spend time on the Coast rather than coming for a day trip.
One draw of Christmas City is the variety and quality of products offered. There will be more than 300 vendors at the event, offering gift ideas one might never have dreamed of. Items offered will include gourmet goodies, jewelry, crafts, apparel and collectibles.
There are many special activities to note. On Friday, the first 200 shoppers will receive a free shopping bag. Also, the Santa Parade will be at 6 p.m. with free hot cocoa for children and storytime with Santa.
A sports lounge will allow attendees to stay on top of the weekend football action on Saturday and Sunday. Also on Saturday, door prizes will be given away every 10 minutes, Winn Dixie will offer a holiday food fair and live music will be presented by the Christmas City Players. On Sunday, a Disney trip will be given away at 3 p.m.
There is plenty to keep kids occupied as well. Breakfast with Santa is $30 and includes a gift box and photo with Santa. A limited number of tickets are available at www.christmascitygiftshow.com. A $10 admission to Santa's Village allows access to train rides, a bounce house, cookie decorating, face painting, crafts and writing letters to Santa.
Admission is $8 per day or two days for $12 at the door. Ages 15 and younger are admitted free. Parking also is free.