Santa Claus is coming to town tomorrow.
He will arrive in Sykesville about 6 p.m. and throw the light switch on the town tree at Main Street and Oklahoma Road.
In the midst of his busiest season, Santa is donating his time to the Sykesville Business Association.
"When they asked, I decided to donate my services," said Ralph K. Hancock, a 71-year-old retired milkman who will make his premier Santa appearance. "I don't need the money; the town needs it more than I do. I'm just giving my time."
Mr. Hancock said he will mingle with carolers from St. Paul United Methodist Church and greet shoppers during the town's first Christmas Open House from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
He also will chat with children -- including his own grandchildren -- and file away their wishes from noon to 4 p.m. on the following three Saturdays in the town Pullman railroad car.
Mr. Hancock said he has little experience playing Santa, but has the height and weight to fit the part.
"I'm tall, and I hate to admit it, but I have a little pot belly," he said.
Craig Taylor, the association's president, said Mr. Hancock is eminently suited for the part, "We dressed him up in his Santa suit and he looks great," he said.
About 13 businesses are offering shoppers sales, discounts or giveaways to celebrate the open house.
Wiley Purkey, co-owner of Craftsman Art Co., has copies of his color print detailing the town's historic sites and churches on sale. Toy trains decorate several shop windows and town eateries are offering festive menus.
"Most every business will be offering refreshments, too," said Mr. Taylor.
Every shop also is freshly decorated in holiday greenery.
"We have all fresh, real stuff, just like the old days," he said. "It is in keeping with the celebration of Christmas past and present. We want to look like 1993 and 1903."
The association spent about $900 for the greenery, he said. The town donated $150 to the decorating efforts.
Mr. Taylor said he hopes visitors will wander through town and visit all the shops.
"I am really excited about this Christmas," he said. "Everybody has come together in this town."
Mr. Taylor said Sykesville's businesses are ending the year on an optimistic note, with every available business location rented.
"People are coming back to small towns to shop because they are tired of malls," he said.