Campaign aims to sell shoppers on Baltimore's holiday charms

Merchants' effort includes Thanksgiving parade, Santa at Harborplace

November 16, 2001|By Jean-Marie McDonald | Jean-Marie McDonald,SUN STAFF

Downtown merchants have banded together again this year in an effort to lure shoppers to Baltimore from suburban malls with a series of holiday events and attractions.

To increase shoppers' holiday spending in the city, the businesses are launching a "Downtown for the Holidays" campaign, which will officially open tomorrow with Baltimore's 50th Thanksgiving parade and the arrival of Santa Claus at the Inner Harbor.

"We base the campaign on the uniqueness of Baltimore traditions," said Jay McCutcheon, vice president of marketing for the Downtown Partnership Inc., a business organization that is the main sponsor of the promotion.

McCutcheon recited a list of traditional holiday attractions, including Santa's Place between the Harborplace pavilions, the Inner Harbor ice skating rink at Rash Field and the lighting of the Washington Monument.

"You can't find that anywhere else," he said.

Events are planned downtown for the next six weeks, culminating with the New Year's Eve extravaganza at the Inner Harbor.

This year's festivities will reach beyond the Inner Harbor and downtown business areas, and feature a "Decked Out for the Holidays" neighborhood-decorating contest in six areas of the city - Canton, Federal Hill, Fells Point, Little Italy, Mount Vernon/Charles Street and Westside, on the edge of downtown.

Workers this week have been putting the finishing touches on holiday decorations downtown, stringing garlands and lights, hanging wreaths and oversize snowflakes, and putting up the now-familiar Santa's Place.

"I like the atmosphere of the harbor, especially at the holidays - the decorations, the music - it's all nice," said Michael S. Sheppard, 25, a Peabody Conservatory student who was shopping yesterday with fellow student, Inna Faliks, at the Gallery.

Faliks, 23, agreed. "It's fun - your mood is enhanced by the festive atmosphere," she said.

Robynn C. Smith, 43, of Williamsburg, Va., who was in town to visit her daughter, was not quite sold.

"As an out-of-town visitor, I passed by White Marsh, and I would rather go shopping there," she said. "It has more of a mall-outlet [feel] to it."

Jimmy V. McClain, 32, assistant manager of Stadium Sports at Harborplace, said he hoped the holiday campaign would bring more local people to shop at downtown stores.

"They come down for the baseball games and concerts," McClain said. "They should realize there's more to downtown than just during the summer."

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