Update, Nov. 22:
With rain looking certain on Saturday, some changes are in the works for Jingle Mingle.
The event will by held rain or shine, according to the city of Gainesville. The city announced the following changes on Friday, Nov. 22:
"Santa will arrive at the event in a Gainesville Fire Department engine at 5 p.m., kicking off the event. Should it be raining, photos with Santa will be moved indoors, as will photos with the CocaCola Polar Bear and other vendor tents, with the location(s) to be announced.
Carriage and kiddie train rides are still planned at this time. Boarding for carriage rides will be staged at the corner of Bradford and Washington streets. The “forest” of inflatables will be staged on Roosevelt Square, and drop off/on for a kiddie train ride will be at the corner of Bradford and Spring streets.
All activities, including open houses, will be held from 4-7 p.m. with the exception of photos with Santa, which will be held from 5-7:45 p.m., and free carriage rides, which will end at 6 p.m. The live entertainment program prior to the Lighting of the Chicken and fireworks display will kick off at 6:45 p.m."
It’s an all-new Jingle Mingle this year, planned 4-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23 — a weekend this year instead of a weekday — in downtown Gainesville. The event has typically been held on a Thursday, but moving to a Saturday allows more people to join in the festivities.
What: Downtown Gainesville’s annual Christmas shopping kick-off event
When: 4-7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23
Where: Downtown Gainesville
More info: Facebook
How much: Free admission
“We felt like we could have more people and families come if it was not on a school night,” said Robyn Lynch, director of tourism with the city. “And the point of this is for the businesses really to have those open houses to bring people in and promote shopping small and shopping local.”
A major emphasis for Jingle Mingle, apart from getting Gainesville into the Christmas spirit, is getting people in the stores on the square.
“The more that we can get people to come out and go inside and shop and visit our local businesses the better,” Lynch said.
At Jingle Mingle, the city does that by offering Christmas activities for families around the square, hoping they’ll stop into some of the boutiques and restaurants, too.
The fireworks are going to be big because there really hasn't been a fireworks show in downtown Gainesville in many, many, many years. As you're on the square looking at the chicken being lit, right as the chicken is lit, the fireworks will go off in the background, right downtown.Robyn Lynch
“We'll also sell that evening for $5, a downtown coupon book that's good through the Christmas season,” Lynch said.
Many of the businesses will be offering treats and refreshments for people who stop in.
“It’s to kick off the holiday season and to encourage the community to shop local,” Lynch said of the event.
Connie Rock, owner at Purchase Effect, said her first time at the event with an actual storefront on the square — Purchase Effect used to be located inside Main Street Market but is now on the corner of Bradford and Washington Streets — was great. The weather gave many people a chance to see her store as they were looking for a place to escape the cold.
“We did have people come in here to warm up, which was nice,” Rock said, laughing. “I’d love to see more events like this. It’s a great time for everybody to come out and support one another.”
She said the shop will be open later for Jingle Mingle, until about 8 p.m. and will offer some sort of refreshment for people who stop by.
Outside, though, in Georgia’s mild-but-not-mild-right-now winter weather, all around the square will be Christmas cheer for all to hear and see and experience.
“There will be a hot chocolate and coffee bar set up on the square,” Lynch said
Once you get that drink, you can ride around the square with it. A crowd favorite back again this year are free carriage rides from 4 to 6 p.m. Lynch said they’ll have two carriages this year to handle demand.
If you’d rather take a different kind of ride, Roosevelt Square will turn into a Christmas-themed inflatable forest with a kiddie train running through it from 4 to 7 p.m.
If you’re looking for a photo op, Santa Claus will ride to the square on a fire truck at 5 p.m. and set up for photos with kids at the center of the square until 7:45 p.m.
Coca-Cola’s polar bear will also be walking around from 4 to 7 p.m. ready for selfies, too.
The Brenau Brasswinds ensemble will kick off the on-stage entertainment for the night before Gainesville mayor Danny Dunagan welcomes the crowd. Andrew Jannakos, a Flowery Branch native who competed on “The Voice,” will play a few songs after that and then it will be time for the long-awaited moment: The lighting of the chicken.
Fireworks will be set up and set off just after the chicken is lighted, filling the sky just behind the chicken at the Smithgall Arts Center.
“The fireworks are going to be big because there really hasn't been a fireworks show in downtown Gainesville in many, many, many years,” Lynch said. “As you're on the square looking at the chicken being lit, right as the chicken is lit, the fireworks will go off in the background, right downtown.”
Lynch said they usually see at least 1,000 people come out to the event and she’s expecting even more with the change of date and added anticipation of a fireworks show.
“It's been such a fun event for many, many years,” Lynch said.