Event welcomes holiday shoppers

Visitors of all ages will have plenty of activities to choose from Thursday evening as part of an effort to bring people downtown and enjoy the holiday season.

The event, “A Not So Silent Night,” from 4 to 8 p.m., will feature free horse-drawn carriage rides, carolers and an elf scavenger hunt, said Erin Hawkins, director of marketing at the Columbus Area Visitors Center.

Participating stores will offer sales on holiday gift items. Restaurants and bars will be offering food and beverage specials during the event as well.

“Our goal with this event is to activate downtown and give people lots of reasons to stay out a little later than usual and get into the holiday spirit,” Hawkins said. “It’s also a great way to support our local merchants.”

The elf scavenger hunt for children 12 and younger will bring them to 14 local businesses, where they can get a card stamped.

Scavenger hunt cards can be picked at the visitors center, 506 Fifth St., and turned in at the same location before 8 p.m. Thursday for a chance to win a grand prize package or four other prize packages, which will include items from downtown Columbus businesses.

The public can also visit Santa Claus from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at The Commons.

Diane Robbins, president of the Columbus Downtown Merchants’ Association, said the goal of “A Not So Silent Night” is to create a festive evening that engages a broad audience while also driving traffic to downtown businesses.

Food donations for the Love Chapel are also being collected and can be dropped off at downtown stores and at the main tent next to The Commons.

Last year’s Downtown Merchants’ Association event was called the Ugly Sweater Holiday Stroll. Hawkins said the goal this year is intended to get people downtown, but noted that it appeared that people felt too much pressure to wear over-the-top holiday garb.

This year’s theme has a broader approach, she said.

Jeff Baker, owner of Baker’s Fine Gifts & Accessories, said he is looking forward to Thursday’s event.

“I always enjoy the holidays because it’s the one time where people are happy and in a good mood,” Baker said. “A lot of times, we can eliminate the stresses in their lives.”

The business, which also plans to offer refreshments to customers, will also offer a 10 percent discount on purchases for anyone wearing an ugly sweater.

The White River Running Company, 325 Fifth St., will also be hosting an ugly sweater two-mile fun run/walk from the store beginning at 5:30 p.m. to celebrate its second year in business.

There is no charge to enter the fun run and prizes will be awarded for ugliest sweater. The store will serve refreshments and have prize giveaways after the fun run/walk.

The kidscommons children’s museum will also be taking part in the downtown holiday event from 5 to 8 p.m. with childcare being provided.

Youth ages 3 to 12 can spend an evening eating pizza, playing holiday games and make two gifts to take home while their parents are shopping, said Robbins, who also serves as community relations/marketing manager at the museum.

Pre-registration is required by today at a cost of $12 for members and $16 for non-members. Registration can be completed by visiting the museum, 309 Washington St., or by calling 812-378-3046.

If you go

What: “A Not So Silent Night” event featuring free horse-drawn carriage rides, carolers, Santa Claus at The Commons, an elf scavenger hunt and shopping at downtown businesses. The kidscommons children’s museum will allow kids ages 3 to 12 to play holiday games and make two gifts to take home from 5-8 p.m. with reservations being required.

Where: Downtown Columbus

When: 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday

Cost: Free (Fee for kids activities at the kidscommons children’s museum are $12 for members and $16 for non-members. Pre-registration is required by Dec. 12.)