Monday, November 12, 2007

Holiday Open House

As happens each year around this time, the downtown retail merchants kicked off the holiday season this past weekend with their annual Holiday Open House. This “event” isn’t really that much different from any other weekend downtown, except that the merchants bring out their Christmas decorations, there are strolling carolers, and many of the shops provide refreshments. And therein lies my motivation for going. I will unashamedly admit that I hit up every downtown store that I think might be offering snacks, from a simple plate of cookies, right up to the punch and full dessert buffet.

Oh, I don’t just march right in and grab the food. I shop around, clearly expressing interest in whatever the shop is selling, and put on what I like to think is a convincing act that I’m only bellying up to the buffet as an afterthought. “Oh, look, cookies...who knew?” I don’t buy anything while I’m there, but I don’t feel guilty about that, because I figure that if I tell other people about the treats a store is providing, and they stop in and buy—well, that’s the best advertising you can get. And I will go one further. I will right here tell you that the most generous downtown shops in terms of refreshments are the Made In Virginia store (samples of ham, soup, crackers and dips, sparkling cider, sweet treats), plus two gift shops, Kranberry Twist (hot cider, dips, cookies), and Deborah’s Place (punch, cake, cookies and candies). In fact, the two gift shops get extra points, because while the Made in VA store is handing out samples of food they sell in the hopes you might buy some, the other two are just trying to be nice to customers. Sadly, they don't have websites, or I’d have linked them. Because isn't a little free advertising worth a few treats?

I will also say that the biggest disappointment was the Pavilion, an upscale gift shop that used to put out samples of all of their gourmet foods: Chocolates and candy, nuts, spreads, pound cake, chips and salsa, and other samples of gifty-type foods they sell. This year, they put out nothing at all. Not a single thing. Then today I found out that they are going out of business after Christmas. Hmm, correlation or causation? Did they put out nothing because they’re going out of business, or are they going out of business because they put out nothing? Okay, it’s probably the former. And just to show there’s no hard feelings, here’s their website, too.

Colonial carolers:

Whittingham's has the best seasonal windows, and they change them frequently. Here's a white wolf in a woodland setting with an expensive necklace. I guess he's trying to lure Granny with the good stuff.

No grannies, but he managed to lure the ladies of Fourte (well, actually, I think one might really be a granny):

One of the gardening shops had this decorative bush of Italian parsley. I've never seen a parsley plant this big:

Here is the horse-drawn carriage, parked in front of the Visitor Center. Until this day, I had never before seen a horse pee. It was like someone turned on a hose full blast for 15 seconds, resulting in a huge puddle of pee in the street. Welcome, tourists! That old saying about peeing like a racehorse completely makes sense to me now.

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