MOUNT AIRY — A group of downtown merchants unveiled plans last week to create a Christmas scene on Main Street in early December aimed at promoting downtown commerce and boosting holiday sales.
A six-member committeeof Main Street merchants has been drafting plans for a two-day holiday street fair to kick off the yuletide season.
The event, called "A Merry Mount Airy Christmas," is scheduled for Dec. 6-7.
"We want to create a little, old-fashioned village andmake it a nice place to come at Christmas," said Nina Dennison, chairperson of the committee and co-owner of Dennisons Trackside Hobbies,a model railroad store on Main Street.
To be sure, the merchants are hoping the promotion will help energize holiday retail business. But beyond that, the merchants are looking to make their presence known to town consumers who more and more head directly to area malls and shopping centers.
"We have a lot of new (businesses) down here,"said Dennison, who, with her husband, Walt, has operated the model railroad store for 15 years.
"People tend to go to the shopping centers, and we want to make them aware of the new businesses down here (on Main Street)," she said.
Committee members have been busy canvassing the other Main Street merchants and encouraging them to participate.
The group is asking businesses to remain open from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.
Some of the ideas merchants will be encouraged to consider for the event are to offer light refreshments, present a door prize, and display white lighting and fresh greenery on their storefronts.
"On thewhole, most of them (merchants) seem enthused about it," Dennison said of the roughly 35 businesses that operate in the Main Street area."We've talked to each business, and they all seem willing to cooperate. I think it will be a good thing."
However, the event is about more than boosting business, Dennison said. The group is planning enough entertainment and activities to stuff an oversized holiday stocking.
There will be hay rides, a barber shop quartet, and carolers from high schools and churches strolling Main Street.
And, of course, Santa Claus will roam the downtown area, visiting merchants and distributing holiday greetings to shoppers.
In the office of the Mount Airy News, children will be treated to readings of Christmas stories. Food will be available at the St. James Episcopal Church, CalvaryUnited Methodist Church and the Mount Airy American Legion Post 191.
"We hope this becomes an annual thing," she said. "We just don't want people to forget we're here."
At Monday's regular monthly meeting of the Town Council, Mayor Gerald R. Johnson Jr. helped spread word of the plans for "A Merry Mount Airy Christmas."
In addition to affording some increased visibility to downtown merchants, the event should offer area residents a chance to enjoy an inviting holiday scene on Main Street, he said.
"We're hoping it accentuates the pride people have in Mount Airy," the mayor said.
The organizing committee is hoping the event will pave the way for other holiday happenings in town, such as the Mount Airy Lions Club's annual "Santa Claus Lane," scheduled for Dec. 9-13.