Though snowflakes didn’t fall in Athens on Saturday, Emily Banta pretended it was Christmas for a few hours during a downtown visit with her husband and two sons.
Banta, of Athens, joined hundreds of residents to see decorations, devour sugar cookies and catch a glimpse of Santa during the city’s Christmas Open House.
The historic downtown buildings, still surrounded by fall foliage, took on a winter feel with holiday wreaths, glimmering lights and Christmas trees in the windows.
Banta’s 2-month-old son, Ty, slept through their visit with Santa at Athens State University’s Center for Lifelong Learning, but her 2-year-old, Jake, was too afraid to enjoy it.
With Thanksgiving days away, Banta considers the Christmas Open House an annual tradition among family and friends.
“It’s about the music and entertainment, and the big thing is running into people you know,” she said. “It’s a good way to get out and do something with the family.”
Athens resident Cindy Patton, who lives two blocks from downtown, said the open house Saturday and today helps her kick off the holiday season each year.
“I love to take advantage of anything downtown,” she said. “The shops are decorated beautifully, and it’s very inviting. It’s just a part of my regular Christmas activities.”
Sponsored by the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce and Spirit of Athens, the event is held each year to promote locally-owned, independent businesses and encourage shoppers to spend money downtown.
The open house will offer $5 carriage rides in the downtown square, holiday music through the streets, shopping specials and other Christmas activities from 1-5 p.m. today.
Tammy Stickland, owner of Trinity’s Gifts and Interiors on West Market Street, reported more than 500 shoppers had visited her retail business by early Saturday afternoon.
“A lot of people come in because it’s a tradition,” she said. “It’s been going on so many years and is very festive.”
Reruns Resale owner Mike Hill operates his thrift shop just off the downtown square, but said the open house attracts customers who typically rely on big-box retail stores for their holiday shopping.
Hill offered refreshments and embellished the building with red and green to entice more shoppers to his 2-year-old retail store.
“Things like this help bring in people who normally wouldn’t shop on the square, who would just keep walking by,” he said.
Want to go?
- Christmas Open House downtown Athens, 1-5 p.m. today.