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The North Pole is a lot closer than you think

COURTESY: 39 NORTH POLE VILLAGE

SPARKS, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) -- If you want to visit the North Pole but don't know how to get there, you are in luck -- Santa Claus and the North Pole Village will be in town starting Thursday, December 7.

Thousands of holiday enthusiasts are expected to descend on downtown Sparks to see Victorian Square transform into a winter wonderland. The annual holiday light festival features thousands of lights, Engine 39 rides, live music, craft vendors, food, family fun and holiday cheer. There is no admission fee -- it is a free event -- rides on Engine 39 train are free, and photos with Santa are free.

Returning this year is a light display contest inspired by the one and only Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Local families and businesses have been invited to participate.

Last year, Salon 2000 in Sparks won $300 in the contest. Teams paid a $100 entrance fee for a 10x20 space to decorate. There are 7 teams competing in 2017 for a prize of $350. The winner & trophy presentation will be Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. on the event stage.

Here is a schedule of events:

Thursday, December 7:

Event Hours: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.

4:00 p.m. - Display lighting, food trucks and booths open

4:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. - Free rides on Engine 39 train

5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. - Santa Visits Free

6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. – Excel Christian School Live Nativity Scene

7:30 p.m. - 7:45 p.m. - Cookies & Milk Story Time with Mrs Claus- Free thanks to Model Dairy

9:00 p.m. - Event Closes

Friday, December 8:

Event Hours: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.

4:00 p.m. - Display lighting, food trucks and booths open

4:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. - Free rides on Engine 39

5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. - Santa Visits - Free

6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. – Excel Christian School Live Nativity Scene

7:00 p.m. – Retro Radio Dolls Musical performance

9:00 p.m. - Event Closes

Saturday, December 9:

Event Hours: 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.

12:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. - Food Trucks and vendor tent open

12:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. - Fate Awaits: Teen local band

1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. - Ugly Sweater Making

2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. – Excel Christian School Live Nativity Scene

2:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. - Visit with Santa - Free

2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. - Free Rides on Engine 39 train

4:00 p.m. - Display lighting

4:00 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. - Laughing Owl Preforms: Egg Nogged (A tale about a clumsy Elf)

5:00 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. - Visits with Santa - Free

5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. - Free Rides on Engine 39

6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. – Excel Christian School Live Nativity Scene

7:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. - Tintabulations Handbell Ensemble

9:00 p.m. - Event Closes

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