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Holiday festivities help Port Washington businesses

Aretta Cohen, owner of Port Washington Florist, sported

Aretta Cohen, owner of Port Washington Florist, sported a Mrs. Claus costume and donned her dog, Rufus, in reindeer ears during this year's "Port Holiday Magic" to attract shoppers. (Dec. 4, 2013) Credit: Tara Conry

Outside Aretta Cohen’s shop, Port Washington Florist, there was a Santa impersonator, a juggler, a man handing out free popcorn and a clown pedaling around on a unicycle Wednesday night. Cohen herself was dressed in a Mrs. Claus outfit, her dog, Rufus, sported reindeer antlers, and all of her employees were also in costume.

The spectacle was all part of Port Washington’s fifth annual “Port Holiday Magic” celebration. From 5 to 8 p.m., Main Street was home to circus performers, face painters, choirs, singing toy soldiers, dancing reindeer and even “The Grinch.” Meanwhile, shops along the nearly one-mile strip decked their storefronts, stayed open late and enticed passersby with free giveaways, kids’ activities and treats.

“The whole purpose of it is to try to bring people back to Main Street, to get them to shop local,” said Daniel Donatelli, co-president of Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington. “We think that’s important.”

Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington hosts the event along with the Greater Port Washington Business Improvement District, the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce and the Town of North Hempstead.

Donatelli said the town provided one of its mobile stages, which hosted singing and dance performances outside the Port Washington LIRR station, and also paid for the trolleys that shuttled shoppers from one end of Main Street and back throughout the night.

The Port Washington BID encouraged attendees to visit as many local stores as possible by making a game out of it. Shoppers were given booklets listing 57 stores, and for each one they stepped inside, they’d receive a sticker. Everyone who submitted a booklet with at least eight stickers by the end of the night was entered into a raffle for a $200 shopping and dining spree at participating merchants. The game will continue until Dec. 15 when another drawing will be held for a $300 spree.

“The incentive of everyone getting a sticker has really brought people in,” said Aylin Hassan, 30, a Port Washington native and owner of the clothing store Suite 275. “They may not purchase anything, but at least they might come back.”

That was the case for Lisa Grossman, of Port Washington, who attended the event with her family. Her girls, Maya, 10, and Sabrina, 7, enjoyed the dance performances, received complimentary foot massages and went home with balloon animals. Grossman said she didn’t have time to shop, but planned to return to Main Street the next day to buy a pair of boots she spotted during the night.

“I went into two stores today I was never in before,” she said.

Donatelli estimated that between 200 and 300 people attended this year’s “Port Holiday Magic,” making it the most successful one yet.

“These events and people shopping local is what makes this town what it is,” said Jessica Haas, the manager of Port Washington Florist and a Port Washington resident. “If they don’t remember to do things like shop local, the reason why they moved here won’t be here anymore.”

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