Santa Claus will soon be making his way to the downtown square for Gainesville’s annual Jingle Mingle event.
Guests and businesses alike always look forward to the event and the main attraction: lighting the giant chicken perched atop Main Street Market. This year’s event, which kicks off downtown’s holiday shopping season, is set for 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15.
Santa will be arriving in a fire truck as the event begins and will be ready for photos with children throughout the night. Guests can take carriage rides around the square and children can take train rides around Roosevelt Square. And, of course, there will be live music from the Voices of North Georgia and the Believer’s Concert Band.
The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, which supports the event each year, is always hoping to bring more guests to downtown businesses.
Where: Downtown Gainesville Square
When: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 15
How much: FreeMore info: Facebook
This year, it may be especially needed.
“Businesses on the square could really use some additional shoppers this year, just with the construction that's been happening,” said Connie Rock, owner of Purchase Effect on the corner of Washington and Bradford Streets. “We hope people come out and support it.”
Purchase Effect, which used to be located inside Main Street Market, recently moved out of that space and found a more prominent area on the square. Rock said she always looks forward to Jingle Mingle and even closes her store for about 15 minutes so she can head out to watch the lighting of the chicken.
She said she doesn't typically see much difference in sales, but with her new location, she’s thinking that may change.
“I’ve kind of got that anticipation of what’s to come,” Rock said. “In the evening, you just have a lot of people who came by and visit, and I think their minds are on the event and lighting of the chicken, not so much shopping. But I believe they come by at a later time.”
She’s keeping her hopes in check, though, since construction has taken over the square and cut away some of the available parking.
“I’m hoping that people will take the extra time and try to find parking spots, or carpool and come support the businesses,” Rock said. “I don’t know anybody I’ve talked to that the parking hasn’t made it difficult for their customers.”
Dress Up, a women’s boutique on the square, is pulling people in by offering sales and free hot chocolate outside its Gainesville location. Savannah Williams, a manager at the store, said they “like to get super festive,” so they spent an entire day decorating and getting things ready for the holiday season.
“We did a bunch of holiday decor, which is different than what we normally do,” Williams said. “We’ve got Christmas trees up, and lights and a bunch of fun Christmas stuff. We’re all going to be wearing Santa hats, so it will be a lot of fun.”
She said Jingle Mingle brings in “a ton” of customers, so they bring in a handful of extra employees to keep up with the demand in the store. And even on such a busy day, Williams said the event is something they always look forward to.
After “20-something years” of doing Jingle Mingle, Kit Dunlap said it still never gets old. As the president of the chamber, she said she looks forward to it every year.
“It’s important because if you haven’t been downtown in a while, you walk around and see the stores and it’s the beginning of the holiday season,” Dunlap said. “It’s not only Thanksgiving but Christmas too. So I think it’s a big deal.”