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'Tis the season to shop Park Rapids and collect area merchants' thanks to patrons

Jane Larsen readies the tickets for distribution at the Chamber. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

The bells are about to jingle, ringing in the season of merriment - and anticipation.

Park Rapids merchants will once again spread a dose of Christmas cheer by sponsoring the Jingle Bells Sweepstakes, now in its eighth year.

"It's the stuff of legends and luck," Chamber executive director Katie Magozzi said of merchants' unique "thank you" to patrons. "Park Rapids knows how to celebrate the holidays."

Six Park Rapids area shoppers will win a total of $10,000 in cash at the "gala" prize drawing event that begins at 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17 at Century School.

Distribution of tickets begins Nov. 1, continuing through Dec. 15.

Shoppers at participating merchants receive an entry ticket with every $10 purchase, with a maximum of 40 tickets for a single purchase.

There will be six cash winners, one claiming $5,000 and five taking home $1,000 each.

Additional drawings for "second chance" and door prizes will be held the night of the sweepstakes gala.

Dick Rutherford will assume the role of Jolly Old St. Nick. And, as is becoming tradition, St. Joseph's Choraliers will lead a Christmas carol sing-along.

The Chamber Ambassadors will serve a holiday dinner of wild rice soup, ham sandwiches, chips and pop for a minimal cost.

The event has evolved from random seating to a rite of defining lucky tables, after three winners have now been present at the drawings, Magozzi said.

"Historically, all the big winners have been local," she noted.

Winning ticket holders not present at the drawing have until noon Friday, Jan. 8 to present their ticket at the Chamber office.

"We get calls in May," Chamber special events coordinator Jane Larsen said of ticket holders asking, "Did I win?"

All sectors of the business community are participating, with banks, restaurants, grocery stores, downtown merchants, the media and services - such as opticians and electricians - on board.

The "shop locally" initiative is unique in that people can buy the staples - a bag of flour and a can of coffee - and their number is thrown into the bin, Magozzi pointed out.

Employees of participating merchants are encouraged to shop in-store. Management will initial the receipt and employees may claim tickets at the Chamber office.

New this year, shoppers will receive double Jingle Bells tickets at many area stores on select days.

Following the drawing, winning numbers will be posted in the Enterprise, at www.parkrapidsenterprise. com and www.parkrapids. com, at participating merchants and at the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.

"It's six weeks of Christmas cheer," Magozzi said, earning Santa's ho! ho! ho! endorsement.