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By MATT CRANE
The Greater Starkville Development Partnership is ushering in the holiday season with its Christmas Open House in downtown Starkville from noon to 5 p.m today.
Jennifer Gregory, GSDP chief operating officer and vice president of tourism development, said the communitywide event has become a definitive holiday tradition for Starkville.
â€śFor years, retailers have gotten together and selected a Sunday in November to debut their Christmas decorations and merchandise,â€ť she said. â€śThe selection of Nov. 18 ties in to our Brunch and Browse and our last New South Weekend.â€ť
Gregory said the over arching theme for Sundayâ€™s event is to shop local for the holiday season.
â€śThis is a great way for residents and visitors to see the great variety of local retailers that we have in Starkville,â€ť she said. â€śPeople can get can early start on their Christmas shopping.â€ť
Gregory said last December saw the largest collection of sales tax in Starkvilleâ€™s history and organizers are focused on promoting local shopping to maintain momentum and success.
â€śParticipating retailers in our Brunch and Browse have seen an overwhelming success with the program, especially compared to last year which was our first year,â€ť she said. â€śDowntown is literally packed, and itâ€™s been a great economic driver. Itâ€™s a way to create new spending in the community because normally these stores are closed on Sundays.â€ť
Along with the fashion and culinary options, Gregory said Starkville children participating in Sundayâ€™s Open House will have the opportunity to meet Santa Claus.
â€śCookies with Santa is a component of our Open House and it will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in our welcome center in the GSDP office,â€ť she said. â€śTickets are $10 per child, which includes meeting Santa, having a professional picture taken by the photographer and receiving a high resolution JPG version for the family to use for Christmas cards or on Facebook.â€ť
Gregory said over 200 children participated in last yearâ€™s Cookies with Santa and organizers are hopeful to match that response.
â€śThe children will get to take home some cookie treats, and itâ€™s a great way to get an early start on Christmas cards and for the children to talk to Santa,â€ť she said. â€śAll proceeds will go to the United Way of North Central Mississippi.â€ť
Gregory said she encourages participants to take advantage of the downtown parking areas during Sundayâ€™s event.
â€śWe encourage visitors to respect the two-hour parking signs on Main Street, and there are public lots located behind Starkville Cafe and behind Sullivanâ€™s Office Supply near the corner of Jackson and Lampkin streets,â€ť she said. â€śAdditionally, City Hall and county courthouse lots will be available, so there should be plenty of available parking.â€ť
Gregory said she and organizers are expecting a large crowd Sunday in hopes of continuing a successful tradition with the Christmas Open House.
â€śMany of our retailers reported that last year was the best Open House they experienced,â€ť she said. â€śWe hope to surpass those numbers this year.â€ť
For more information about the Starkville Christmas Open House, visit http://www.visit.starkville.org or call the GSDP at 662-323-3322.