Financial Impact Expected from Merry Meridian

If the efforts of city officials are any indication, more people than ever will attend the tree lighting ceremony at Meridian City Hall Tuesday evening. The reason is because the event is being featured in the latest addition of Mississippi magazine.

"We really think that with it being featured throughout the whole state of Mississippi that that will be an even bigger draw," said Meridian cultural affairs coordinator Casey Null.

Null expects even more people for the return of the Kansas City Southern Holiday Train Friday.

"The hope is that people from the outside will come down and spend the night in the hotels and go out to eat in the restaurants, and of course, fill up at the gas stations," Null said. "So, you're looking at every vantage point of being able to be successful and Meridian thriving."

The start time for the KCS Holiday Express tours is 4 p.m., first come, first served. The end time depends on the crowd size and weather. KCS will make every effort to keep the train open as long as there are visitors in line. Also, the train will stop in Newton Dec. 1, also at 4 p.m.

Then, there's the Merry Meridian indoor boutique and outdoor markets, which will be held the following day Saturday, Dec. 1.

Meridian Main Street executive director, John McClure, says based on momentum from last year's marketplace, dozens of vendors are expected.

"The indoor market, I would expect, is going to be somewhere in the 18 to 20 range," said John McClure, director of Meridian Main Street. "For the outdoor market, frankly, people will be signing up until the end of the week."

Meridian Main Street officials estimate that on the Saturday of the 2011 Meridian Marketplace, indoor vendors had sales of $15,000 or more. That's not counting the outdoor vendors which sold an estimated $25,000 or more in merchandise.

Ultimately, organizers say the marketplace is not only a big money maker for the vendors, but also the city.

"Because we have a ton of folks that come from outside the immediate area to participate and they'll be eating with our food vendors," McClure said. "They'll also be eating at our restaurants and so on."

Here are the details of some special events:
*Tree lighting ceremony Nov. 27 at 5 p.m. at city hall, featuring Christmas music and special performers.
*The Forgotten Carols Nov. 27 at 7 p.m., a musical production at Temple Theatre
*Kansas City Southern Holiday Express Christmas Train, Friday, Nov. 30 at 4 p.m.
The train will also be in Newton for tours Dec. 1 starting at 4 p.m. at the KCS Yard, 127 North Main Street
*Breakfast with Santa Dec. 1 from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at St. Paul's Episcopal Church
*Meridian Meridian Boutique Market & Outdoor Market, Dec. 1 at Riley Center, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.
*Merry Meridian Children's Art Workshop, Museum of Art, at 10 a.m.
*Meridian Christmas Parade Dec. 1 at 5 p.m.
*Champagne Brunch at Merrehope, Dec. 2, 12 noon to 2 p.m.

Other holiday-related events to follow:
*MCC Christmas Gala Chorus and Guitar Ensemble, McCain Theatre, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m.
*The Singing Christmas Tree, Highland Baptist Church, Dec. 6-9, 7 p.m. nightly, plus a Sunday matinee at 4 p.m.
*Meridian Symphony Orchestra's Peppermint Pops Concert Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at Riley Center
*The Nutcracker Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. at Temple Theatre
*John Tesh Big Band Christmas Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Riley Center