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Holiday shopping at local downtowns

A menorah in front of a Christmas tree

A menorah in front of a Christmas tree at the village green in Huntington, New York. (Dec. 9, 2005) Photo Credit: Joel Cairo

Planning on steering clear of the malls and big box stores this holiday season? Here's where to expect at local downtown shopping districts.

Babylon Village

The village is kicking off the holiday shopping season with an "Old-Fashioned Village Christmas" on Friday, Dec. 3. Stores will stay open later that night, and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. they will treat shoppers to hot chocolate and free samples of merchandise. Santa is also making an appearance on a horse-drawn carriage, said Mary Adams, who is the village Chamber of Commerce's vice president in charge of special events. The jolly one will hand out candy canes and take photos with the kids, she said. Also on hand will be Charles Dickens' story characters, she said, and carolers who will make their way down Deer Park Avenue and onto Main Street.

To entice shoppers to remain local, the village is offering free parking for the holidays, and many stores will remain open on Friday nights and Sundays.

Port Washington

Merchants along Port Washington's Main Street want shoppers to appreciate the hometown feel of mom and pop shops instead of flocking to big chain stores this holiday season.

On two Wednesdays, Dec. 1 and 15, stores will stay open until 9:30 p.m. while incorporating "Shoppertainment," with events such as the pet store offering pictures with Santa, live jazz and refreshments at a home goods shop, and a fashion show at a teen clothing boutique. Arts and antiques stores will be featuring showings of local artists and champagne receptions.

"It's just going to be a magical and hometown folksy feeling," said Mindy Germain, executive director of Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington. "If you're going to shop local . . . you want a local flavor to it."

The residents group, along with the Town of North Hempstead, the Business Improvement District and the Chamber of Commerce, is organizing the effort to attract holiday shoppers to Main Street. The town will provide a trolley for shoppers. There will also be jugglers, a menorah lighting, carolers and radio station KJOY/98.3.

Glen Cove and Long Beach

For Long Island's two cities the holiday season means shopping local, officials said.

In Glen Cove, shoppers can kick off the holiday season with a showcase of local businesses from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30, at the Glen Cove Mansion, 200 Dosoris Lane. The evening is sponsored by the Glen Cove Chamber of Commerce, and admission is free. Hors d'oeuvres will be served, and visitors can get their pictures taken with Santa. On hand will be vendors and business owners in the area, including retailers and artists.

In Long Beach, the festivities will start with a menorah lighting outside City Hall on Dec. 1, the first night of Hanukkah. The Long Beach Chamber of Commerce website will offer coupons for discounts at local shops. "We always have a very nice holiday atmosphere," Warren Begh, executive director of the chamber, said. "It's a pretty area, and everything is lit up. It's very inviting for people." One of the nice things about shopping downtown instead of at a mall, he said, is to get refreshments from a wide variety of restaurants and bars. No food court here.

Port Jefferson 

Business owners in Port Jefferson's waterfront downtown are counting on Charles Dickens and a pig named Oscar to lure holiday foot traffic away from the malls and into the village.

The village will host its 15th Charles Dickens Festival Dec. 3- 5, and downtown merchants are counting on the festival, which drapes a Dickensian theme over the entire community, to spur commercial traffic. Oscar, a potbellied pig, is the mascot for this year's festival, said Chamber of Commerce director of operations Barbara Ransome.

The festival "starts off the holiday season and introduces visitors who have never been to Port Jefferson to a very festive atmosphere," Ransome said, adding that merchants are "geared up" for "hopefully a very profitable season."

The Dickens festival includes musical events at village churches, a "cider alley" on Mill Creek Road and a Friday evening ball in the village center. Tickets are $50 per person.

If the works of Dickens don't inspire commercial traffic, the village is also suspending paid parking from the day after Thanksgiving until March, Ransome said. Ice-skating, a popular draw in the village center in December and January, also often brings shoppers into the village, she said.

Huntington and Northport

To stimulate business and encourage residents to shop locally during the holiday season, the Huntington Town Board is waiving parking-meter fees from Nov. 26 through Jan. 1 in Huntington village.

"We do this every year to make it easier for people to shop downtown and encourage people to spend their money locally," said A.J. Carter, town spokesman. "One of the potential disincentives to shopping downtown is paying for parking when there's free parking at the malls, so this helps Huntington Village merchants compete during the holiday season."

On Saturday, Nov. 27, a holiday parade will proceed down New York Avenue into the village at 6 p.m. and end with a tree lighting.

Northport will also waive parking-meter fees during the same period, according to Mayor George Doll, even though the village loses about $8,000 in meter revenue each season. "It's Christmas," Doll said. "And it helps the merchants. We think it helps get people to come downtown and shop. Even without the meters, it's a two-hour parking limit, so people can't take a spot and stay there all day - [or] they'll get a ticket."

The village tree lighting and caroling will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26. 

East End

It is, to paraphrase a line from Stephen Sondheim, the little things people do together that will keep shoppers strolling on the streets of the hamlet business districts of the North and South Forks this holiday season.

Every Main Street will have a tree lighting, and most will have a parade with Santa on a fire engine. There will be holiday song fests on the village greens, with hot cocoa afterward.

Even downtown Riverhead, where empty stores fill nearly two blocks, will be making the best of it, with the East End Arts Council holding a contest for the best decoration of a vacant store window.

The winner for the best design gets a $500 prize, to be announced at the Riverhead bonfire on Dec. 11. It costs $25 to enter, and windows are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Every contestant is responsible for cleaning the window when the contest is over.

The largest single holiday display will be in Montauk, where the lighthouse committee of the Montauk Historical Society will outline the 110-foot-tall lighthouse and its adjoining museum with thousands of white lights on Saturday, Nov. 27, at a holiday party with music, cider, cookies and Santa.

Southampton village will be bright with thousands of white lights on scores of trees. The village will feature hay rides and costumed characters strolling the streets, and it will be asking its shops to stay open late to stretch out the holiday experience, according to Chamber of Commerce president Bob Schepps.

In Sag Harbor, Santa will pay a visit on Saturday, Dec. 11; there will be a community tree lighting on Main Street, followed by a walking tour of several art galleries.

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