Festival kicks off holiday magic

Mahogany Thomas

More than 20 businesses in downtown Columbia, MO came together to celebrate the seasonal spirit with local Missourians, with holiday cheer, merry smiles and decorated window displays using local Missourians.
The District hosted its annual Living Windows Festival Friday, Dec. 2, from 6 p.m., to 8 p.m., greeting families with festivities such as free carriage rides, live nativity scenes, refreshments and even a stop on Santa Claus’s lap at Landmark Bank.
Contributing locations customized their windows with seasonal themes, marking the beginning of extended holiday hours for many downtown shops.
Amy Atkinson, store manager at The Candy Factory, said Living Windows is an event The Candy Factory is eager to participate in each year. While shopping for holiday treats, customers enjoyed free samples of popcorn, fudge and hot apple cider.
“It generates excitement, brings people downtown and gets lots of costumers in,” Atkinson said. “Everybody’s happy.”
Atkinson said, the mood of the locals created an enjoyable evening for everyone, including both store owners and shoppers, as the relaxed atmosphere made for a free, entertaining downtown occasion
“It’s a fun holiday event, so in general sprits are high and happy,” Atkinson said. “It’s a good event for us [downtown businesses] to get involved in.”
With refreshments at the Candy Factory, glamorous robots at Poppy and dancing Wii’s at Slackers, RBHS students saw amusement in the live window displays that filled the downtown area.
Junior Paige Selman’s favorite display was the elves battle of the bands because of its creativity and originality in comparison to the other displays.  Selman said the District accomplished a true sense of a community, bringing in all aspects of culture from across the area.
The District “got the community together,” Selman said. “And got people who normally do not spend a lot of time downtown to come and really see the downtown and how much fun it is.”
Selman said while she enjoyed the event this year, Living Windows still has room for improvement.
“The only activities, really, were watching windows, visiting Santa for the kids and then just in general shopping because stores stayed open late,” Selman said. “But there weren’t any real specific activities for teens.”
Next year the District should provide a better map of the involved businesses and consist of more interactive activities for a wider range of ages, Selman said
Even with the lack of activities for adolescents, however, Blackberry Exchange, a resale shop targeted for high school and college students, managed to reach out to not only its cliental but also its younger customers as kids danced in Christmas sweaters for the store’s display.
The owner of Blackberry Exchange, Laura Wilson, said Living Windows has become a tradition for the store, as each year the store has people dance in the window sporting ugly Christmas sweaters for both comical and stylish purposes.
While Wilson said she is not entirely sure the event brings people into every store, Living Windows makes people inclined to come back if they stumble upon something they like.
“It’s all about little kids and families, so having kids dancing in the windows or outside is the most enjoyable part,” Wilson said.
Although Selman attended Living Windows for the first time this year, she plans to continue in the future.
“Despite the cold it is just a fun time,” Selman said. “You can just hang out with friends and good entertainment.”
By Mahogany Thomas
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