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Ten-year-old Merlin Newcomb had never looked more excited to catch a ping pong ball than he did on Saturday in Old Town Eureka.

”I just saw the balls in the air and on the floor,” the Eureka resident said while clutching four balls in his hands. “And then, I just reached out and tried to get them as fast as I could.”

Merlin, his mother Tammy Newcomb, and more than 100 other community members bundled in coats and scarves stood with arms outstretched next to Old Town's gazebo on Saturday for Eureka Main Street's first Snowball Drop.

The event featured a “man-made blizzard” made up of more than 600 ping pong balls -- or “snowballs” -- shot from a homemade air cannon over the crowd. Each ball had a Eureka business name and a number representing different discounts or giveaways at each store.

Eureka Main Street Assistant Director Amanda Kruschke said around 30 businesses participated, and each one came up with the offers.

”The ball can be in-store cash, or discounts, or free items,” she said. “These are offers the business make themselves.”

Sharyn Senestraro, whose 9-year-old son Lucas and 8-year-old daughter Corinna caught a total of 9 balls, said she was a little nervous at first to have her children diving on the ground with all the foot traffic, but everyone was nice about it.

She said one of the balls, a mystery prize at Chapala Restaurant, would be used at lunch immediately following the event.

Kruschke said other Main Streets across the nation do Snowball Drops to promote small, local businesses, which inspired the idea. Those lucky enough to have caught a ball will have until Dec. 24 to redeem their prize.

”Some communities drop the balls from a fire truck, but we wanted to try a cannon,” she said, adding that her husband, Dean Kruschke of McKenny's Do It Best Building Centers, built the air cannon. “After this year, it's definitely something we'd want to do again.”

Catherine Wong can be reached at 441-0514 or Follow her on Twitter and Tout @cmwong27.