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Cotter Mayor Mac Caradine and Cotter-Gassville Chamber of Commerce President Jason Nazarenko are welcoming Baxter County residents to come out and enjoy the city’s annual “Christmas in Cotter” festival this Saturday.
The festival, which is sponsored by the City of Cotter, CVFD Auxiliary, Saturday Club of Cotter, Cotter-Gassville Chamber of Commerce, the Nazarenko family, and the Cotter School District, will run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause will be in attendance to hand out free toys to children who attend. The festival is free to the public.
“I always tell people when they walk down there, that it feels like you stepped into a Hallmark town in a Hallmark movie,” said Nazarenko.
This year’s Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause will be played by Cotter Fire Chief Lyle Jack and Cotter Postmaster Becky Bonde. Together the two will take Christmas photos with local residents and children while handing out free toys provided by the Cotter Fire Department Auxiliary.
After meeting Santa, residents and guests can walk through the light displays in Big Spring Park before stopping to get fresh s’mores and hot chocolate by a bonfire. This year’s lighting display was coordinated by the Nazarenko family with input from Mayor Caradine. The hot chocolate and s’mores are also being provided by the Nazarenkos this year.
The Saturday Club of Cotter will be providing cookies for guests standing around the bonfire.
Guests and residents can then sing along to Christmas music provided by the Cotter School District Choir and Band. Cotter Choir Director Yvette Roberts will be leading the caroling this year, while Cotter Band Director Douglas Messick will be in charge of the band.
This year’s Christmas festival will also see the announcement of Cotter’s annual Christmas House Decoration Contest. There are some strong contenders this year, with John Bell looking for a win after coming in second place last year.
The judges for this year include Arkansas State Representative Jack Fortner, Gassville Mayor Jeff Braim, and Kaleigh and Audra Painter on behalf of Arkansas State Representative Stetson Painter.
As always, judges are allowed to grade homes in whatever method they choose. Mayor Caradine said Representative Fortner was prone to judging favorably for homes that displayed nativity scenes. Judging for the contest will be held on Dec. 13, with the winner being declared at the Christmas festival.
Last year’s first-place winners were Shannon and Sione Anitoni. Sione Anitoni is the contractor responsible for Cotter’s newly paved walking path in Big Spring Park.
The new path cost the city $118,000 with $49,000 of the costs coming from an approved ARDOT grant earlier this year. The path leads to the city’s newly built “Peitz River Lights” donor monument, which highlights the local families that donated to help install a new LED lighting display on the city’s famous R.M. Ruthven Bridge.
The repaved trail was completed through the use of local residents and businesses including Anitoni and Nazarenko’s Potter Block Properties. Only one out-of-county bid was made for the project. Mayor Caradine said if it wasn’t for local contractors and businesses stepping up to bid on the project, then the cost of completion would have been too high.
Caradine said he was thankful to ARDOT for approving the city’s request for a grant.
“I mean, that’s the only way our city can survive is by applying for grants, otherwise we couldn’t afford to do anything,” Caradine said.
With “Christmas at Cotter” right around the corner, any remaining residents who wish to participate in the annual house decoration contest should reach out to the Mayor’s Office or Jason Nazarenko at the Cotter/Gassville Chamber of Commerce to ensure that their homes are judged on the 13th.