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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.
âFor years, retailers have gotten together and selected a Sunday in November to debut their Christmas decorations and merchandise,â she said. âThe selection of Nov. 18 ties in to our Brunch and Browse and our last New South Weekend.â
Gregory said the over arching theme for Sundayâs event is to shop local for the holiday season.
âThis is a great way for residents and visitors to see the great variety of local retailers that we have in Starkville,â she said. âPeople can get can early start on their Christmas shopping.â
Gregory said last December saw the largest collection of sales tax in Starkvilleâs history and organizers are focused on promoting local shopping to maintain momentum and success.
âParticipating 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 she said. âDowntown is literally packed, and itâs been a great economic driver. Itâs a way to create new spending in the community because normally these stores are closed on Sundays.â
Along with the fashion and culinary options, Gregory said Starkville children participating in Sundayâs Open House will have the opportunity to meet Santa Claus.
âCookies 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 she said. âTickets 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
Gregory said over 200 children participated in last yearâs Cookies with Santa and organizers are hopeful to match that response.
âThe children will get to take home some cookie treats, and itâs a great way to get an early start on Christmas cards and for the children to talk to Santa,â she said. âAll proceeds will go to the United Way of North Central Mississippi.â
Gregory said she encourages participants to take advantage of the downtown parking areas during Sundayâs event.
âWe encourage visitors to respect the two-hour parking signs on Main Street, and there are public lots located behind Starkville Cafe and behind Sullivanâs Office Supply near the corner of Jackson and Lampkin streets,â she said. âAdditionally, City Hall and county courthouse lots will be available, so there should be plenty of available parking.â
Gregory said she and organizers are expecting a large crowd Sunday in hopes of continuing a successful tradition with the Christmas Open House.
âMany of our retailers reported that last year was the best Open House they experienced,â she said. âWe hope to surpass those numbers this year.â
For more information about the Starkville Christmas Open House, visit http://www.visit.starkville.org or call the GSDP at 662-323-3322.