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Holiday lights warm Gainesville square
Ted Tuck picks a tune with the King Daddy Polecats on Thursday evening inside Main Street Market during downtown Gainesville’s Jingle Mingle. Main Street Gainesville and the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce kicked off the holiday season with their annual Christmas shopping event promoting downtown Gainesville and its businesses.

The lights around downtown Gainesville were illuminated for the first time Thursday, signaling the start of the holiday season.

The Jingle Mingle, with Mainstreet Gainesville and the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce as hosts, invited people to enjoy a special Christmas-themed evening in the restaurants and shops on the square.

Joe Burnett, executive director of Mainstreet Gainesville, said this year’s event was a little bit different than in the past. All of the activities were centered in the 100 block of Main Street rather than throughout the square.

"We thought this year was a good time to shake up the event," Burnett said. "Being in a smaller footprint it will give us that party kind of atmosphere."

But other businesses around the square were open and welcomed visitors, too.

Linda Orenstein, whose family owns Gem Jewelry on Bradford Street, said the event is a good way to introduce new people to their business.

"They can come in, see what we have and if they buy something, great," Orenstein said. "We just welcome them; this is downtown Gainesville, this is what we have."

Susan Strittmatter, owner of Horse & Hound Tack Shop, hopes all the traffic from Jingle Mingle will bring in new customers.

"They don’t know we have so many things that don’t have to do with riding," Strittmatter said. "We have lots of neat things."

Carollers dressed in top hats and bonnets roamed the square singing and a horse-drawn buggy carried lucky children around the square with Santa Claus.

In the past, the yearly event has been known as Upstairs Downtown. This year, Burnett decided it would be better to split it into separate occasions. An open house will be held Dec. 4 and 5 where all downtown businesses will offer special deals and food.

"It got so spread out and it just was hard to get the kind of feel we wanted out of the event," Burnett said. "The open house portion of the previous event has been pulled away and that will take place on the week following Thanksgiving."

Robyn Lynch, vice president of membership development for the Chamber of Commerce, said the Jingle Mingle is a good way to expose people to local merchants.

"We’re encouraging everyone to spend their money this Christmas season in Hall County," Lynch said. "There’s great retail shops throughout Hall County."