Midnite Madness is more than a shopping spree ELLICOTT CITY/ELKRIDGE

December 04, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

For early holiday shoppers who don't appreciate getting hustled out of malls at closing time and paying for every morsel of nourishment while on the hunt, Ellicott City is the place to be tonight.

The historic district's merchants are sponsoring the 15th annual Midnite Madness, a night when almost all Main Street shops stay open late, many offering their customers spreads of wine, cheese, cider, cookies and other holiday fare.

"If you want to get in the spirit of Christmas, the best way is to shop in an area like this," said Barry Gibson, president of the Ellicott City Business Association. "We put people in the mood, that's for sure."

"It's almost like a family and friends thing. People on the street have a separate party."

Mr. Gibson said merchants expect 7,500 to 10,000 visitors tonight and as many as 25,000 for the weekend.

Beth Carr, chairwoman of the Midnite Madness coordinating committee, describes the late-night socializing, browsing and buying opportunity as a community event and a showcase for the arts and crafts, antique and other merchants in old stone buildings lining the street.

"Maybe they're not shopping that particular night, but they look around and come back later in the season," said Ms. Carr, who owns Shamrock & Thistle Irish Imports and Ice Cream Parlor Etc. on Main Street.

More than 100 businesses are participating, she said.

The event draws visitors from Washington, Virginia and other surrounding areas, say merchants.

Crowds have been so thick in the past that Margaret Smith decided to have a doorman to monitor the foot traffic the last few years inside the fine art gallery that bears her name.

"The first few years, it was extremely busy and fun, but we didn't sell," said Ms. Smith, who is experiencing her sixth Midnite Madness. "When we adopted the doorman, we had more sales because people didn't get aggravated."

Parking will be at a premium around the historic district. County workers labored from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. from Monday through this morning to upgrade the parking lot behind the Main Street post )) office. The parking lot will be striped, lights erected and equipment cleared away by this morning, said Ronald G. Lepson, county public works assistant director. A trolley will run along Main Street, carrying visitors to and from parking areas.

Midnite Madness also features entertainment starting at 6 p.m. Carolers from Hammond High School will sing on Main Street. Mike McCarthy from WMIX-FM will appear at the Ellicott City B&O Railroad Station Museum from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mumbles and Squeaks Toy Gallery will provide a brass ensemble.

Mr. Gibson says sales during Midnite Madness rival those during "black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, which merchants count on to put them in the black.

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