Starting the night of the Saline County Christmas Parade, Santa Claus is set to stop at the Saline County Courthouse through the holiday season to visit with area children during Christmas on the Square.
"We try to make it a very happy festive place where people can enjoy the lights," said Administrative Manager for the Saline County Judge Vicki Hopkins.
Santa Claus will ride in a Benton fire truck during the parade Dec. 2. At the end of the parade, the truck will drop him off by the gazebo on the courthouse lawn where he will talk to children and learn what they want for Christmas.
He will be back Dec. 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20. Each night he is scheduled to be on site from 6 to 8 p.m., though Hopkins said if any children are still waiting, Santa will stay until all children have seen him.
Dec. 12 will be Special Needs Night designed for children who use wheelchairs or have another special needs where it will be easier for them to see Santa inside the courthouse, instead of in the gazebo. Hopkins said all children are welcome that night, it is just designed for those with special needs. If it rains, it will be moved to Dec. 19.
Dec. 13 will be character night. Characters from Mickey and Minnie Mouse to Smarty the Fox to superheroes are scheduled to be available to interact and take pictures with children. Hopkins estimated 10 to 15 characters will be there, along with Santa.
"There'll be lots to do that night," Hopkins said.
Along with visiting Santa, families will be able to take pictures at photo boards and enjoy cookies and hot cocoa.
Hopkins said everything during Christmas on the square is free.
Visitors will also be able to enjoy the more than a million lights that are on and around the courthouse for the holiday. Hopkins said workers began putting up lights in late September to prepare for the holiday season. The Courthouse is on the Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights.
Hopkins said the county loves using the lights to bring people in the see Downtown Benton. She added people come from all around. While visiting, they eat at local restaurants and shop at local stores.
"We do not use any tax pay dollars to do this," Hopkins said, adding all the funds for the events come from donations.
There will be signs and banners thanking the donors who help make Christmas on the Square possible.
Most of the lights on the courthouse should be lit on Thanksgiving night, Hopkins said. Many families have made it a tradition to see the lights after their holiday meal.
Hopkins said inside the courthouse will also be decorated for the holiday. While it won't be open at night, people can see the indoor decorations during normal business hours.
While the county is not affiliated with it, Hopkins believes Hot Springs Carriage Company plans to once again have carriage rides around the courthouse and downtown. There is a cost for the rides because they are not part of Courthouse on the Square.
Hopkins wants to see the community come out, see the lights and enjoy the festivities. "There are a lot of things to enjoy and have a good family outing where they don't have to pay," she said.