This year's annual Downtown Holiday Stroll and Blue Tree Lighting in Needham are being held Saturday, Nov. 24 from noon to 5:30 p.m.
According to Needham's economic development director, Devra Bailin, visitors can start their stroll with lunch at one of several downtown restaurants that will be featuring special holiday items or fixed price holiday menus.
Lunch can be followed with visits to the area's local merchants, many of whom are participating in the Local First Passport Program, explained below, and check out the stores competing in a window display contest, which will be judged later this season by their lighting, creativity, props and decorations, presentation, and arrangement of merchandise, and overall holiday spirit.
Shopping wearing you out? Stop by the steps of Town Hall to hear GROBY, a jazz combo of Needham students, from 1:15 to 2:30 p.m. Or bring the kids to ride on the holiday Children's Train around Town Hall, sponsored by Wingate of Needham, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
To get out of the cold for a bit, go to Prudential Advantage Real Estate, 1089 Great Plain Ave., from 1 to 5 p.m. Their brokers will welcome you to enjoy hot chocolate and treats.
Warm up those vocal chords! From 2 to 4 p.m., stroll through downtown with the Victorian Carolers in period costume, courtesy of Briarwood Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center. You may also hear the music of Plugged In's roving minstrels while you shop or dine.
WODS-FM will be broadcasting live from the Common from 3 to 5 p.m., offering fun and promotions to stoppers-by.
And be sure to be at the Common at 5:25 p.m. in time for the Blue Tree Lighting, accompanied by the Highland Glee Club. Santa's scheduled to make an appearance at 5:30 p.m. via a Needham fire truck. (The Blue Tree Lighting in Avery Square will occur as always at 4:30 p.m.)
After the festivities, enjoy dinner, Acme Ice's ice sculptures on the Common, and help spread the holiday cheer by donating to the Needham fire fighter's collection for Toys for Tots. A box will be near the Town Hall steps.
Local First Passport Program: Participating merchants include The Closet Exchange, Taylor's Stationery, Pollywogs, Black Sheep Knitting, Perennial Designs, Harvey's Hardware, and Home Trends. All participating merchants will have a Local First Passport Program logo on their store window. Visitors can pick up a Passport card at a participating location and begin making their 12 qualifying purchases of $25 from Nov. 24 through Dec. 24, receiving stamps for each $25 spent. Once the Passport is filled with stamps, it can be entered into a prize drawing. Visitors are free to complete as many Passports as they'd like, but complete Passports must be submitted to a participating merchant by Jan. 10 to be eligible for the cash prize drawing. Must be 18 years of age or older to participate.
Theater Building: As part of its ongoing partnership with local artists, the downtown merchants are joining forces with several artists to decorate the empty storefronts of the former Theater Building, thanks to the participation of its owners, Tony Caruso and Ken Mackin. Arts Julie Ellison, Mary Hensley, Gina McClennan, Zachary Lichtman, Lisa Downey, Angela Turner, Brenda Stark, Maggie Stark, Melanie Ludlow, Maggie Coffey, Jolene Edington, and the kindergartners of Hillside School under the direction of Ariel Shoemaker are participating. Though not all of the art work will be on display on Nov. 24, visitors can see the work come together.
Small Business Saturday: The Holiday Stroll corresponds with the national Small Business Saturday event. According to the National Retail Federation, the average consumer spends about $700 during the holiday season. By shifting 10 percent of those purchases from non-local businesses to independent, locally-owned businesses, consumers can have a profound impact on the Needham economy. With more than 20,000 Needham residents 18 and older, a 10 percent shift of just the average holiday expenditure comes to more than $1,400,000, which in turn represents almost $1 million infused into the local economy. This is because 68 cents of each dollar spent at an independent, locally-owned Needham business stays in the town, thereby strengthening its economy and enhancing the community in many ways.
Laura Franzini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.