Two 'El Dorado Elves' chosen for holiday season

In the search for a new mascot to spread holiday cheer in El Dorado, organizers decided that not one, but two mascots will be needed to "ignite the magic of Christmas" across the city.

Last month, the Diamond Agency, a local advertising and public relations firm, announced that it was partnering with several community groups and organizations -- including the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce, Main Street El Dorado, the Downtown Business Association and the South Arkansas Arts Center -- to develop the idea for the new holiday character.

Tentatively dubbed "The El Dorado Elf," the position is a paid opportunity to don a costume and make appearances around the city from about Nov. 15 until Dec. 15 to celebrate the holiday season and promote the city's 2023 holiday theme, "Oh, What Fun It is To ..."

The open-ended phrase allows residents to fill in the blank with their favorite holiday memories and traditions.

Auditions for the elf were held Sept. 23 at SAAC.

Don Hale, president and owner of the Diamond Agency, said the audition process quickly revealed two things: the idea for the elf has proven to be popular among local residents and the job will require more than one person.

"We were a little overwhelmed. We had some really good elves -- and maybe a couple that weren't so good -- but we have made a selection and we couldn't just narrow it down to one elf," Hale told members of the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission on Sept. 27.

He said two elves will work in tandem during the holiday season.

"I think you will be excited about what we can do with these mascots, these characters," said Hale.

"I think they can say things about our community, based on their longstanding experience in the North Pole and Santa's workshop, that many of us may not ... or may have forgotten about Christmas," he continued.

He said more details forthcoming about the mascots and the rollout of the "Oh, What Fun ..." holiday campaign, adding there may be plans for a meet-and-greet event that would include an opportunity to take photos with the characters.

The "Oh What Fun ..." theme has been embraced by groups throughout the community, said Hale, adding that it will serve as the keynote for the 2023 El Dorado Christmas Parade, which is set for Dec. 7.

Hale said the holiday campaign will be promoted extensively in the Little Rock and Shreveport, Louisiana, TV markets to help draw visitors to town during the holiday season.

El Dorado Food Festival

The El Dorado Food Festival wrapped Saturday and days before the end of the month-long event, Hale said the fourth annual festival drew "the most participation we've had in four years."

The EFF was launched in 2020 by the El Dorado Insider -- a quarterly magazine that highlights people, places, events and other points of interest in the city and is published by the Diamond Agency -- as a nontraditional festival to stimulate business and increase customer traffic for the local food service industry in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The inaugural festival was deemed a success and local restaurant/eatery owners expressed their desire to continue the EFF to promote and celebrate El Dorado's food scene.

The nontraditional, virtual event lasts throughout the month of September, during which residents and out-of-town guests are encouraged to "Dine Out" in El Dorado by visiting local eateries and exploring the variety of food options that are available in the city.

Participants have the opportunity to win prizes, including a grand prize of $1,000 cash.

This year, 24 restaurants and eateries signed up to take part in the EFF.

The event is promoted via a multi-media campaign, including radio, TV, print and billboard ads.

Hale said sponsors and local TV and radio stations provided "really good help" in supporting and promoting the 2023 EFF and local food scene.

In a partnership with KARD/KTVE (MyArkLaMiss), Hale said the TV station airs a segment each Tuesday that highlights and fleshes out stories that are featured in the Insider magazine, which is partially funded by the A&P commission.

"We've seen a bump in our social media on Tuesday following the news and they've done an excellent job linking back to the El Dorado Insider, so hats off to ... KTVE, as well as Noalmark (radio broadcasting company), for helping us throughout this food festival for the month of September," he said.

Winners of weekly social media contests that were held throughout the month will receive an EFF lunch/beverage cooler.

The $1,000 grand prize will be awarded to one lucky winner on Wednesday, Hale said.