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This year’s Holly Jolly holiday festivities in Latrobe will include a virtual visit with Santa and four days of extended downtown shopping promotions.

As with the town’s Great American Banana Split Celebration in August, Holly Jolly entertainment this year will be streamed online, not presented in-person. It’s all meant to keep people safe, through social distancing, while getting into the holiday spirit.

Instead of a single Saturday, participating downtown merchants will be welcoming visitors for Holly Jolly shopping Dec. 2-5. Hours will vary for individual stores, but the event will kick off with a town-wide open house 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 2.

“We’ve stretched the event for four days to get away from people crowding into the stores,” said Chairperson Emily Pasqualino.

Local artists will have creative works for sale at the Latrobe Art Center, 819 Ligonier St. Across the street, at the former Dollar General location, Latrobe Farmers Market vendors will display their wares 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 2 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 5.

Shoppers who make purchases from five participating merchants during the four days will have a chance to win one of two gift baskets. Pasqualino said one of the baskets will feature merchandise from downtown stores. The second will include items with a Latrobe theme.

Participating locations include the art center, the farmers market, Paper Heart Affairs, Eclectique, Rose Style Shoppe, Chicoras, Graydog Comics and Toys, Masterspieces, Dainty Pastry, Terri’s Gourmet Sweet Treats and Depot Street Boutique. Pasqualino’s Paper Heart Affairs will showcase locally made items 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 4. Chicoras, which features women’s fashions and gifts, will mark its ninth anniversary 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 5.

Leading into the festival, select downtown Latrobe merchants will participate in the second annual Cookie Crawl 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 28. Each store will conduct a drawing for a dozen cookies.

Gingerbread contest returns

The Holly Jolly festival will coincide with the town’s second annual gingerbread house contest.

“Last year we had them all inside the art center,” Pasqualino said. “This year, to alleviate crowding, the participating merchants will have gingerbread houses displayed in their windows.”

The houses will be available to view beginning Dec. 2. Visitors may vote for the best house in each of three categories (ages 3-12, ages 13-17 and adults or organizations) and place their ballots in a box through Dec. 5 during business hours at the art center.

Contestants have until Monday to enter. Visit hollyjollylatrobe.com for rules and forms. Three contestants from each category will have a chance to win prizes. The winners will be announced on Dec. 5.

Virtual Christmas countdown

The Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce is organizing a virtual countdown to Christmas. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, through Christmas Eve, holiday-themed entertainment and presentations will be offered in 20- to 30-minute online episodes.

The episodes will be aired on local Facebook pages for the chamber, Downtown Latrobe and the Great American Banana Split Celebration, according to Isaac McDaniel, event director for the chamber.

“Depending on how travel restrictions are, people may not be able to get together and come back to the Latrobe,” said McDaniel. “This is our way of being able to share Latrobe with people who typically would travel back home for the holidays.”

During some of the episodes, Piper Anke, Latrobe’s 2018 Banana Split Princess, will host interviews with Santa and Mrs. Claus, with farmers who look after the jolly elf’s reindeer and with those who deliver letters to Santa.

Segments on baked goods will include a banana split dessert demonstration by Sophia Trunzo, the 2020 Banana Split Princess.

Featured entertainers include the local Stage Right theatrical group, Derry Area School District student Anna Oshie and Thomas Octave, associate professor of music at Saint Vincent College.

Crafts will be presented by the art center and by Adams Memorial Library, which also will offer tales about holiday traditions.

Two events for runners

Latrobe-GLSD Parks & Recreation’s 26th annual Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk will take place beginning at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 26 at Latrobe’s Memorial Stadium. The entrance fee is $25, with awards to be presented in eight age divisions. A virtual version of the race also is offered.

Visit latroberecreation.org for details.

The chamber has organized a virtual-only Holly Jolly Jingle Jog 2.5-mile race that participants can complete by running or walking on a treadmill or at any outdoor location.

Registration is open at jinglejog.run through Dec. 6. Those who sign up for a full race packet will receive a participation medal and a long-sleeve shirt featuring an “ugly sweater” design.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Local | Westmoreland

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