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Last year's was the first Window Wonderland event.
The second Window Wonderland contest starts Nov. 10.
BY CATHY JETT
A Santa Claus in camouflage and military discounts will be among the features of downtown Fredericksburg's holiday open house on Nov. 10 and 11.
The two-day event also will kick off the city's second annual Window Wonderland riddle contest, which will have a Christmas movie title theme this year. It will run through Dec. 31.
Both the open house and the contest are expected to bring thousands of shoppers to the retail shops and restaurants along Caroline and William streets.
Santa has been a fixture at the open house, and this year he marketed the event to personnel at Fort Belvoir and Marine Corps Base Quantico since Nov. 11 is Veterans Day.
They, in turn, have adopted him as a wounded warrior and given him a Santa suit made from desert camouflage fabric and naughty-and-nice dog tags to wear next weekend, said Bonnie DeLelys, manager of The Richard Johnson Inn, 528 Caroline St.
People can have their picture taken for free with Santa in his new outfit from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 10 at Corky's, 921 Caroline St., and from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 10 and 11 in his sleigh in the courtyard at The Richard Johnson Inn. Santa also will be strolling downtown from noon to 2 p.m. on Nov. 11.
Some retailers and restaurants will be offering discounts to military personnel, either active or veteran, with an ID card, during the open house.
The Richard Johnston Inn also will be collecting toys for the Toys for Tots program next weekend.
About 56 downtown businesses are participating in this year's Window Wonderland contest, which is sponsored by the city, the city's Economic Development Authority and The Free Lance-Star. That's up from about 40 merchants in 2011.
"We developed the Window Wonderland promotion last year to draw foot traffic and attention to the downtown shopping district during the holiday season, hoping to generate additional retail and restaurant sales," said Karen Hedelt, the city's director of economic development and tourism. "It was a great success, not only for the traffic it drew, but in the excitement it created."
Bobby Hebert, an advertising consultant for The Free Lance-Star, mined a number of Internet databases for the top 100 holiday movies of all time to come up with this year's riddles. Some of the movies are as old as 1931, others as new as 2011.
Last year's riddle contest, which was about new and vintage toys, "had a multi-generational appeal," Hedelt said, because grandparents were able to identify the older toys while children knew the names of the newer ones.
It "created multiple return visits for the participants," she said. "I think the movie theme may be a bit more challenging, but the rhymes are clever and it will become even more important to make it group activity."
A different riddle will be posted in each of the participating businesses' storefront windows, and people who guess all the movie titles can use forms available at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center or visitfred.com for a chance to win more than $4,000 in prizes.
Top prize is $1,000, and there will be $500, $300 and $100 prizes for the runners-up. All the money was donated by the Economic Development Authority. There also will be a number of gift certificates donated by local merchants, and cash prizes will be awarded to the businesses with the favorite windows.
Whittingham's, whose windows on Caroline Street are popular with shoppers, is ineligible because it won the favorite window contest last year.
Window Wonderland contest forms are available at the Fredericksburg Visitor Center, 706 Caroline St.; The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St.; or online at visitfred .com.
Entry forms can be submitted in person to the Visitor Center or The Free Lance-Star, or mailed to Fredericksburg Visitor Center, 706 Caroline St., Fredericksburg, VA 22401 by 5 p.m. Dec. 31.
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407