Downtown working hard to bring in holiday visitors

December 05, 2003|by BOB MAGINNIS

A year ago I decided to see whether all the people who say "there's nothing in downtown Hagerstown" were right or wrong. I knew they were incorrect, but until I hit the pavement, I didn't realize how much is there, and how many things you can buy for less than $25.

By the time I'd made my rounds, I had enough material for two columns, and some very nice gifts for friends and family, too. (Yes, I paid for them.)

In an effort to get more people downtown, city officials and a group of merchants and restaurant operators put together a program called "Thursday Night Out on the Town."

According to Deborah Everhart, the city's economic development coordinator, the idea was that stores and restaurants would stay open later than they normally would.


On those nights, parking in the North Potomac Street deck would be free. And for those who want to shop first and eat later, many participating merchants are giving out coupons good for a free dessert when you buy a meal.

The next event will be held Thursday, Dec. 11, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. According to Karen Giffin, the city's public relations director, there will be a few new attractions.

Giffin said that from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. that evening, there will be a historic holiday tour on a motorized trolley run by Jim Burns.

The tour will be hosted by Roger Keller, a local historian, and will cost $7 per person, with free hot chocolate and some other goodies thrown in.

Tour-goers will board at the Gourmet Goat restaurant, on Franklin Street across the street from City Hall, Giffin said.

Because the trolley seats just 20 people, reservations are on a first-come, first-scheduled basis. So if you want to get on early, don't wait too long to call. The number for reservations is 301-739-8577, ext. 183.

The participating restaurants include The Washington Spy, Schmankerl Stube, Roccoco's, Broad Axe, Rhubarb House, Bentley's Bagels, Rocky's Pizza and the Gourmet Goat. Reservations are recommended.

A Santa decked out as he would have been during the Civil War years will be going from restaurant to restaurant that night, for the amusement young and old patrons.

If Thursday night isn't convenient, don't worry, because on Friday, Dec. 12, and Saturday, Dec. 13, the city will hold a Downtown Holiday Open House.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

According to Giffin, it will feature "specials at local businesses, music, refreshments and more."

On Saturday, Giffin said, carolers from Girls Incorporated and Girl Scouts of the Shawnee Council's Hub City Service Unit will begin at Hagerstown City Farmers Market and travel through downtown Hagerstown.

A German band will perform on Public Square and Keller's historic trolley tour will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., again at a cost of $7, which includes refreshments.

Giffin said other events include:

  • A Holiday Open House at the City Farmers Market at 25 W. Church St., on Saturday, Dec. 13 from from 5 a.m. to 2 p.,m., featuring a winter petting zoo, free samples from vendors and young carolers.

  • An exterior lighting contest in the Ridge Avenue neighborhood on Friday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m., sponsored by that area's Neighborhoods 1st chapter.

    Giffin said that neighborhood spans from south of the underpass to Wesel Boulevard including South Burhans Boulevard, Ridge Avenue, Brewer Avenue and all the streets in between.

  • Though Dec. 25, shoppers will get two hours of free parking on weekdays and free parking in the deck after 7 p.m. weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday.

A lot of people have worked hard to make something worthwhile happen downtown this holiday season. Maybe it's not what you're looking for, but if you don't give it a gander, how will you know?

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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