Santa Claus knows better than to shop in Starkville in July in his traditional winter wear.
Children who find him roaming Main Street and its shops Saturday will see him in red velvet shorts with white trim and a Hawaiian shirt. This special visit is part of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership's "Christmas in July," a retail program featuring Santa, snow cones, shopping, and more.
Jennifer Gregory, GSDP vice president for tourism development, said "Summer Santa" will be out and about from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., the full duration of the event. She said he will visit the different stores on Main Street and eat lunch at one of its restaurants.
"He'll be available for children to speak with and take pictures," Gregory said. "We will not have a photographer but people are more than welcome to bring cameras and they can take their own photos."
Gregory said stores at Main Street, College Park, Cotton Crossing and the Cotton District will have sales in effect for the event. She said stores will let visitors know they are participating with red and green balloons at their entrances, but they will not necessarily be selling Christmas-themed merchandise.
"Most will be just selling their regular seasonal merchandise," Gregory said. "Several stores are just now getting in their back to school clothes. This event is really just a retail promotion event to get people downtown in the summer months, to get people to shop and dine."
Balloons can also be found in front of the pond near McAlister's at Cotton Crossing, Gregory said, where GSDP has hired a clown from Sunshine Birthdays to paint faces and make balloon animals for free from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. She said the clown would not be limited to Christmas-themed facial paintings.
"She'll be able to do a variety of face paintings and make a variety of balloons," Gregory said.
Children and parents who want a taste of winter during the event can stop by the College Park shopping center, where the Sugar Shack will be selling snow cones near George Sherman Clothiers. The band Drew and Johnny will also perform live music in front of Sushi Martini in the Cotton District, but Gregory said they will not be performing Christmas songs.
"We've been doing this event for about 5 years," Gregory said. "July is typically a slow time for our retailers. The 'Christmas in July' theme is a fun way to get Santa involved and get families to participate."
Gregory said the event was also set up to coincide with the Running of the Bulldogs later in the day.
"We're kind of hoping people will come and do both," Gregory said. "We're hoping they will go to 'Christmas in July,' hear some music, get some lunch, go home and give the kids a nap, and come back and come to Running of the Bulldogs."