Downtown merchants and hoteliers in Niagara Falls will make a new effort to attract people during the holiday shopping season.
The "Jingle Falls USA" activities are scheduled on three Saturdays: Dec. 2, 9 and 16.
Highlights include a giant gingerbread house at the Niagara County Community College Culinary Institute.
The two-story house, which will be open Friday through Sunday from Nov. 25 to Dec. 23, will be made of 5,000 pounds of gingerbread and 2,000 pounds of icing, NCCC spokeswoman Barbara DeSimone said. Santa will be on hand for breakfast Dec. 2.
Also that day, a 5 p.m. candlelight walk from City Hall to Seneca Square in front of Seneca Niagara Casino will conclude with the lighting of a Christmas tree. Broadway star Michael Cavanaugh, who will perform at the casino that night, will lead the walk.
There also will be evening illuminations along Old Falls and Third streets, in Niagara Falls State Park and at all city fire stations on the three Jingle Falls nights.
Horse-drawn carriage rides, fire pits, food vendors and golf cart shuttles will be available downtown on the three Saturdays. The Conference and Events Center will host a holiday vendors marketplace.
The full schedule of events is available at jinglefallsusa.com.
"It's totally new. We're not going off anything else that's been done in downtown before," said Susan Swiatkowski, chairwoman of the Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association and marketing director for Old Falls Street and the Conference and Events Center.
Many businesses and groups have held events during the Christmas shopping season, but they typically promoted them on their own.
"Working together makes a bigger noise," Swiatkowski said. "We have people who have not been aware of what's been going on."
"It's a wonderful opportunity to attract visitors during typically a slower time of year, and also bring local residents down to downtown Niagara Falls USA," said Julie Gilbert, vice president for marketing at Destination Niagara USA, the official tourism promotion agency.
"Downtown Niagara Falls is changing," Mayor Paul A. Dyster said, pointing to the construction of new hotels and other development.
"We can all agree, however, that more activities and events are needed to complement bricks and mortar investment here," Dyster said.
Although occupancy is trending upward at all times of the year, Niagara Falls hotel operators still face what Dyster called "a seasonality gap," with winter the slowest season.
"We have a responsibility to provide them with more things to do here," Dyster said.