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“Y’all have got me in the Christmas spirit,” one customer announced at Spangler’s during the Christmas Open House downtown Saturday.
“Well, good!” a greeter at the door replied.
Downtown kicked off the holiday season early this year. The tree lighting was held Saturday, which has traditionally been the weekend after Thanksgiving. Main Street Coordinator Cheri Bedford said the goal was to kick off the holiday shopping season and give people more time to enjoy it.
“Halloween’s barely over, and we haven’t made it to Thanksgiving yet,” Amanda Posey, a loan officer with Guild Mortgage Company, said as she set up a table outside the Chamber of Commerce. “But I love Christmas, so I’m ready for it. I just wish it was colder.”
Indeed, more than a few early holiday shoppers downtown Saturday sported shorts. Temperatures hovered near 80 most of the day and remained around 75 even after sunset when the tree was lit.
Not that people let that keep them out of the holiday spirit. Pink Twig Wedding and Event Planning advertised the “best wassail” downtown, and Paris Baby started decorating the night before.
“It is a little odd to put up Christmas trees in warm weather, but we put on Christmas music and got in the spirit,” Paris Baby co-owner Melissa Gordon said. “We’re excited for Christmas to come.”
Tabitha Blackburn, the other owner, added: “It’s been a great kickoff to the holiday season. I think it’s put people in the mindset of the holidays and Christmas and shopping local.”
More than 40 businesses downtown and around the county took part in the holiday open house idea, Tourism Director Becky Semple said. Not that everyone saw an overabundance of customers.
“People are looking; they’re not spending like you’d expect,” Bill Brown said at Vendors Outlet Mall. “I think a lot of it has to do with the economy. People aren’t sure what happens next.”
“We’re excited the Christmas tree is on the square this year,” Kerri Priest said. “We’ve got a good group of people and businesses down here that promote things, which is exciting.”
People packed the square Saturday evening to see Santa and his reindeer and see the tree lit up shortly after sunset.
“This is the first Christmas tree I can remember on the square,” Semple said. “We were having trouble with the live trees.”
Downtown has seen live trees lit up at the courthouse in 2009 and 2010. Last year, it was the courthouse itself that got lit up because the drought killed a lot of trees. So this year, they decided to have one manufactured for display on the Plaza.
The project was a collaboration between Turner Industries, Keep Paris Beautiful, Paris Area Art Alliance, Main Street and the city’s Traffic and Sanitation and Parks and Recreation departments.
The community choir sang “O Christmas Tree” after the lighting – which took more than 31,500 lights strung on on more than 750 feet of strands.
“I wanted a 30-foot tall tree,” Bedford said. “I had no idea how big that was.”