The clip-clop of a horse’s hooves, the strumming of guitars, Santa’s hearty chuckle, families’ laughter and the ringing of bells welcoming shoppers into downtown stores – Kilgore’s Mingle & Jingle creates its own special soundtrack.

This year’s shopping and dining soiree in the Main Street District drew healthy crowds to city sidewalks (busy sidewalks, indeed) as well as two returning visitors from the North Pole.

With Santa Flavious greeting guests young-and-old by his side, Joshua the Elf (a.k.a. Josh Mandreger) said he was pleased to be able to contribute to Kilgore’s celebration of Small Business Saturday. Clad in green with candy-striped tights, Joshua the Elf joined Santa in a three-hour tour of Main Street shops participating in this year’s Mingle & Jingle: posing for ‘Elfies,’ spreading cheer and welcoming it in kind.

It’s one of several dozen events the pair is visiting this holiday season, an exemplary one, Joshua said.

“I think it opens the people’s eyes,” he added, “to be able to make something happen locally that will continue to build in a community.”

For Joshua, it’s important for residents to contribute to the businesses that are part of the bedrock of their community, and it was heartwarming Saturday to see hundreds on the street at any given moment, taking part.

“It’s something that’s big picture. It’s something that really helps develop communities in an incredible way,” he said. It’s especially gratifying when tied to the holiday season: “I think it gives a local community, any community, an opportunity to remember what’s most important.”

This year, Kilgore Community Relations Manager Sonya Waters let attendees keep shopping right up to the 9 p.m. end of the event, accruing a Golden Ticket for every $25 transaction at a participating store then dropping the entries in one of three prize barrel locations.

The 2019 drawing for one of five prizes, including a grand prize package valued at more than $1,200, came Monday – the top ticket belonged to frequent downtown shopper and diner Dinah Sullens.

“I never win anything,” Sullens said. “I only won BINGO for the first time last month!”

Waters spent part of her Monday contacting the various winners and inviting them to Kilgore City Hall to pick up their winnings. She took the chance to get some early feedback on Saturday’s event.

“I think it was great,” she said. “It was really busy, very festive,” including solid customer traffic at downtown stores and restaurants: “I think they did well.”

She was happy to welcome back her holly jolly helpers: “Santa Flavious and Joshua the Elf always make people’s nights.”

For their part, the two are focused on spreading joy at numerous other local activities this season, and they’re already looking forward to a return trip to Kilgore.

“It’s a moment and an expression we get to offer to people,” Joshua said. “I really think it reminds people of happy moments in life, to be able to capture true joy and happiness.”

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