SKOWHEGAN — Volunteers with Main Street Skowhegan took advantage of the crowds downtown for Small Business Saturday with a little window dressing of their own — group president Gene Rouse and his wife Amy decorating the windows for Santa’s Village.

The couple put up the Christmas trees, delivered wrapped gift boxes and hoisted garlands and decorations in the windows of the former McLellan’s department store, with entrances on Water Street and Commercial Street. By the time the village opens next Saturday morning, the vacant store front will be transformed into a holiday village — complete with Santa and a talking Christmas tree.

“The Christmas tree will have ornaments on it and lights and it has a speaker in it,” Gene Rouse said. “When a child comes by, the tree will say to them ‘Hello, little girl, are you having a nice time here today? Have you seen Santa Claus? Have you done an angel craft?'”

Creating the voice from the tree, sponsored by the Lions Club, will be another volunteer — a spotter — near one of the entrances who will speak into a small microphone. The excited child will hear the voice coming from the speaker mounted in the tree, Rouse said.

Santa’s Village will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday as part of Skowhegan’s Holiday Stroll, which begins Thursday with a festival of trees at Redington Memorial Home, holiday card making at Skowhegan Pottery and Knit Night at Happy Knits, both at the Somerset Grist Mill.

The Holiday Stroll parade begins at 7 p.m. Friday. Other events, including a downtown art walk and a Christmas bazaar and bake sale at the public library, are scheduled for throughout the day on Friday.

Saturday kicks off with breakfast with Santa at Tewksbury Hall at the Federated Church, on Island Avenue, followed by the farmers market, petting zoo and the Pickup Cafe, all at the Grist Mill.

Gene Rouse said he could see shoppers downtown for the national shop local day Saturday from the windows of the future Santa’s Village as he and his wife worked putting up all the decorations.

“I saw probably 20 people that I knew who knocked on the window wondering what we were doing,” Rouse said. “They were down here shopping. The entire flatiron district was parked full when I came down to unload and two-thirds of the parking lot by the Chamber was full.

“The people inside The Bankery were stacked knee-high to a tall giraffe — it took forever for me to get my coffee.”

Amy Rouse, a Main Street volunteer, said Santa’s Village will include a GPS Christmas scavenger hunt, where children will get clues to find treats and gifts at various locations around the downtown

“We have all kinds of people coming — we have Zumba coming, we have line dancing coming,” she said. “We have an obstacle course, crafts, face painting.”

Amy Rouse said she and Pam Newcomb of Newport will be on hand in their roles as Two Crazy Women — a hands-on educational program for children. At Santa’s Village the women will host “Christmas Around the World” with traditional holiday projects from different countries, she said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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