It may still be a week until Thanksgiving, but it was Christmas Thursday on the square in downtown Gainesville.
The ninth annual Upstairs Downtown Tour, held by The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Gainesville, started off the holiday season with a showcase of downtown businesses.
The holiday spirit was in the cold air, and lights, holly and ribbons adorned the trees and lamp posts. A horse-drawn carriage carried people around the square, and old-fashioned carolers wandered about town.
Shops and restaurants kept their doors open late to invite guests in to get a taste of their offerings.
"It’s kind of fun because the whole area opens up," said Mary Beth Begley, owner of The Crystal Plate on Bradford Street. "It’s an easy way to come visit."
She said the event is a good way to expose her business to new customers.
Debra Lucero, who was shopping at The Crystal Plate Thursday, said she enjoyed shopping at the Upstairs Downtown Tour last year and decided to come back again.
"There are really cute things all over," she said.
Robyn Lynch, vice president of membership development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, planned this year’s event and said she was excited about the many new shops and restaurants on the square.
"There’s lots of great new shops," Lynch said. "It’s just great to give exposure to the community and encourage them to shop local and dine local."
Lynch said she was excited about two new features at this year’s event — s’mores and carolers.
Boy Scout Troop 203 set up a fire to roast marshmallows and sell hot chocolate and coffee, and the carolers came in old-fashioned costumes from Fifth Row Center, a theater company in Flowery Branch.
Doug Straughan, the troop’s scoutmaster, said they were raising money to send the troop to a Boy Scout camp in Florida during the summer to learn about sailing and diving.
Lynch said she was pleased with the turnout for the event.
"With a slower economy, it’s really encouraging to see how crowded it is," Lynch said.
Scott Dixon, owner and chef of Scott’s on the Square on Main Street, said the Upstairs Downtown Tour marks the one-year anniversary of his restaurant.
"This was our coming-out party last year," Dixon said. "This will always be a special event for us."