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If you’re a First Night New Year’s Eve volunteer in this community be advised that the usual appreciation luncheon has been cancelled. Instead you’ll receive a cash gift certificate to spend in downtown Ocean City.

The promotion is the idea of Chamber executive director Michele Gillian. It is designed to help boost sales locally in the face of the economic downturn. The Chamber will also forgo its annual Christmas party for shopping in the downtown and has contacted other organizations urging them to follow their lead.

The idea is to transfer party dollars into Christmas gift purchases and to boost the sales of Ocean City merchants.

A gala, old fashioned, downtown Christmas celebration is set for Fri., Nov. 28 as the center piece of the promotion. The Chamber is organizing the party with the assistance of Main Street and the Retail Merchants Assn.

And they’re putting some economic muscle behind the party and a holiday long marketing campaign. The Chamber has advertised on Philadelphia television, mailed letters to 500 of its members and sent 13,000 postcards to second homeowners across the region inviting them to shop locally and support the downtown’s 100 plus specialty shops, galleries and restaurants. Over 2000 emails have also be sent.

Marcia Shallcross, Main Street Director, reports that her organization has printed and is distributing thousands of holiday schedules and has pumped advertising money into the Christmas promotion. The City’s Tourism Commission is chipping in too, notes Michael Dattilo, the City’s director of Community Services.

Features of the Nov. 28 celebration that runs from noon till 6 p.m. include a free Children’s Train Ride at City Hall Annex, 901 Asbury Ave., courtesy of Wonderland Amusement Pier, free photos with Santa in an Ocean City Lifeboat on City Hall Lawn and celebrity readings and face painting at Stainton’s Square, 8th and Asbury Ave. Hot chocolate and cookies will be served at Stainton’s.

Free horse and carriage rides with Santa are scheduled from noon to 3 p.m. starting at City Hall, 9th and Asbury Ave.

Entertainment on City Hall steps starts 1 p.m. featuring Elvis performer, Ted Prior, with holiday selections and Andi Cocozza and a group of young entertainers providing holiday favorites. Entertainment concludes at 4:30 p.m. with a program by the Community Carolers.

A 5 p.m. the Christmas Tree at City Hall will be lighted. Then Santa will arrive in Ocean City just like he did years ago. The Jolly Old Elf will descend from the roof of City Hall with the assistance of the Fire Department’s Holiday Hook and Ladder Truck. This dramatic entrance marks a nostalgic return to how it was done in the 60’s.

A Children’s Costume Contest is set from 2 p.m. in front of City Hall. Prizes will be awarded to the best dressed elves, Santas, snowmen, etc. Parents may get into the act, too Entry is free.

Downtown shop keepers will feature specials and restaurants will be open, some offering free refreshments.

For information, call the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, 399-1412, the Public Relations Office 525-9300 or Main Street, 398-4662.