NORTH ADAMS -- The city kicked off its third annual Hometown Holidays Celebra tion, a month-long celebration filled with events highlighting local merchants and restaurants, with Wednesday night's tree lighting celebration.
But the festivities have yet to begin.
"Our focus is to encourage people to shop locally and to spark some activity in the downtown during the holiday season," Veronica Bosley, director of tourism and community events, said. "For the next four Thursdays, we'll be having special events, gallery openings and music on the streets."
She added, "One nice touch is that many downtown businesses participate in our holiday window decorating contest. We'll have many businesses, that you don't normally see decorate any other time of year or don't necessarily expect to be creative, participate and have these really wonderful painted windows or displays."
North Adams Chamber of Com merce Vice President Keith Bona, who co-owns Berk shire Emporium and Antiques on Main Street, said there was a concerted effort this year to theme each week.
"One week, we'll have a theme where Santa's snow machine has broken down and Luma's and the Emporium will have snow flakes with prizes on them," he said. "The first week is sponsored by MCLA Gallery 51 and will see the return of the popular ‘99 cents and up' show. Dave Atwell is also working with the Eagle Street merchants to get something going with them for another week."
Bona added, "We have a lot of customers who will start their holiday shopping locally, before moving on to the bigger stores. We really appreciate that, as we can't compete with the big gimmicks and sales of bigger chain and mall stores."
He said many shoppers realize that by dealing with local merchants, they have an advantage.
"It's easier to deal with the local guy directly and not have to call an 800-number when something goes wrong or service is needed," Bona said. "What most people don't realize is that most local merchants are willing to work with customers on a price. They should at least give merchants an opportunity."
Christa Abel, co-owner of Bark N Cat on Holden Street, said the store will not only be open late for the Hometown Holiday celebrations on Thursdays, but will open on Sundays, from noon until 4 p.m. during the holiday season.
"The Thursday night activities are great, because people are more likely to come out when there's something special going on," she said.
As a special treat, the store will hold a fundraiser for the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter on Saturday, Dec. 8 from noon to 4 p.m.
"People will be able to have their pet's picture taken with Santa for $10," Abel said.
Libbie Pike at Shima Bou tique on Main Street said she and co-owner Suzy Helme look forward to the Thursday evening events each year.
"It's fun for people to get out and for us to be part of the holiday spirit," she said. "We love it. We love seeing people. We make a point of staying open late on those Thursdays and having specials in the store."
She added, "It's a great way to get people out into the community, which is what the holidays are all about."
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email