11-6-2015 9-51-08 AMFor nearly three decades, Athens merchants located on and off the Square have thrown a “shopping shindig” that has become a traditional part of the Athens Christmas Season. This year, the 29th Annual Christmas Open House, sponsored by the Limestone County Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Spirit of Athens, will be held on Saturday, November 21st, from 10am to 5pm, and Sunday, November 22nd, from 1pm to 5pm. The annual shopping extravaganza features retail merchants and restaurants throughout Athens ready to assist shoppers with tackling their Christmas present wish lists. Businesses participating in Christmas Open House will offer in-store specials, refreshments, door prizes, and will also have registration cards for the Grand Prize, compliments of Hobbs Jewelers. Additional Christmas festivities will be held in downtown Athens during the two-day event. Santa will make his grand arrival to the Athens Square by fire truck on Saturday as well as Sunday at 1pm, and will be available for photos until 3pm each day at the Athens State University Center for Lifelong Learning, located at 121 South Marion Street. Photos will be taken by a local professional photographer and will cost $10. 11-6-2015 9-51-20 AM There will be carolers spreading good cheer as they sing and stroll in and out of stores on the Square. In addition to Santa’s arrival, you can visit with Mother Christmas, as well as shop the Merry Market. The Merry Market is an event recently added to the festivities whereby home based businesses can display their wares at tables located inside the Center for Lifelong Learning on the mezzanine floor. The hours for the Merry Market are the same as the rest of the event. There are always some fun features that are a part of the Open House for merchants not located in downtown Athens. Shop with those participating merchants and be on the lookout for the “Elf on the Store Shelf” contest. Proprietors will hide one of Santa’s elves somewhere in their store, and the one who finds it can take the elf to the Chamber of Commerce office to redeem their surprise. There will also be a “Tacky Christmas Sweater” contest, and you definitely have to be “in it to win it” if you want to go home with the prize. Details on the “Tacky Christmas Sweater” contest can be found on the Christmas Open House event Facebook page (Athens, Alabama Christmas Open House) or by calling the Chamber at 256-232-2600. 11-6-2015 9-51-31 AM Several of the businesses will be giving away their own door prizes, and there will be special sales and discounts with the participating Christmas Open House merchants. Jennifer was pleased to announce that “this year we have the greatest number of businesses participating in our Christmas Open House,” and is expecting that the turn out will be good. She also told me why she, as a wife, mom, and businesswoman enjoys the Christmas Open House so much. She said, “What I like most about Christmas Open House is being able to shop local and support our hometown small businesses. You don’t have to go to the mall, everything is right here. We have carolers singing and strolling on the square and fun festive Christmas activities to enjoy. It’s a unique atmosphere and makes shopping during the holidays a lot less stressful and much more enjoyable.” 11-6-2015 9-51-42 AMJennifer discussed the positive impact that the Open House has had on our local economy, and was grateful for the faithful participation, year after year, that has come from both the merchants as well as the citizens. She said, “The Athens Christmas Open House has become an annual shopping tradition for many. We are proud to have the opportunity each year to provide a unique holiday shopping experience for both the community and the merchants. Each year we try to improve on the previous year and add something new and exciting to the event” If you are wanting a successful holiday shopping trip with a softer, more relaxed, small town feel, beautiful decorations, music, refreshments, prizes and more, then come make some memories on Saturday, November 21st and Sunday, November 22nd at the Athens Christmas Open House. You can greet your friends, find the perfect gifts, taste delicious holiday food, and actually enjoy yourself! For more information, contact the Limestone County Chamber of Commerce at 256-232-2600. By Ali Elizabeth Turner

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