(Photo by Johanna Kaiser for boston.com)
Local businesses from across Boston kicked of the holiday shopping season early with snacks, songs, and a tree lighting to remind residents to shop locally and decorate for the season.
Popcorn, candy canes, and Christmas carols were abound at the corner of Washington and West Dedham streets in the South End Wednesday where the city kicked off its annual Holidays on Main Streets campaign and city-wide decorating contests, and helped light the Washington Street tree.
The festivities, hosted by the Washington Gateway Main Streets, encouraged local residents to frequent local businesses when doing their holiday shopping and visit their neighborhood’s Main Street district.
The city has 20 Main Streets districts, including Washington Gateway, throughout the city. The Main Streets Business Districts program was launched in1995 to revitalize and support commercial districts and their role as commercial and community centers.
“Our local business districts from East Boston to Dorchester to right here in the South End offer everything you need for a fun holiday experience,” Boston Mayor Tom Menino’s daughter, Susan Menino Fenton, who filled in for her hospital bound father, told the crowd.
The city plans to make it easier to visit the districts by allowing drivers to park for free at metered spaces for two hours every Saturday until December 29. Shoppers will also have two hours of free parking on Friday, November 23.
“Trust me, I know from years of shopping experience that in the Boston Main Street districts you’ll find unique products and services, award winning restaurants, and friendly encounters with your neighbors,” Menino Fenton said.
Drivers who do receive non-public safety parking tickets from November 29 through December 1 can resolve their ticket by donating a toy of equal or greater value than the ticket fine by December 8.
The city also launched its third annual Deck the Windows competition for the Main Streets Business Districts. As part of the competition, business show off their holiday spirit by decorating their storefronts and windows.
Windows must be decorated by Wednesday, November 28, so a panel of local judges can decide which displays will make it to the open voting round in which Boston residents can vote.
The competition tests businesses’ creativity in three categories: best representation of local style and history, most inviting for customers, and most festive.
So residents can get in on the decorating fun, the city has also launched Deck the Rooftops, a city-wide contest in which judges will evaluate the overall design and appeal of residents’ lighting displays in various categories, including one or two-family homes, triple deckers, porch or balcony, multi-family, and apartment building.