By MATT CRANE
The Greater Starkville Development Partnership is ushering in the holiday season with its Christmas Open House in downtown Starkville from noon to 5 p.m today.
Jennifer Gregory, GSDP chief operating officer and vice president of tourism development, said the communitywide event has become a definitive holiday tradition for Starkville.
“For years, retailers have gotten together and selected a Sunday in November to debut their Christmas decorations and merchandise,” she said. “The selection of Nov. 18 ties in to our Brunch and Browse and our last New South Weekend.”
Gregory said the over arching theme for Sunday’s event is to shop local for the holiday season.
“This is a great way for residents and visitors to see the great variety of local retailers that we have in Starkville,” she said. “People can get can early start on their Christmas shopping.”
Gregory said last December saw the largest collection of sales tax in Starkville’s history and organizers are focused on promoting local shopping to maintain momentum and success.
“Participating retailers in our Brunch and Browse have seen an overwhelming success with the program, especially compared to last year which was our first year,” she said. “Downtown is literally packed, and it’s been a great economic driver. It’s a way to create new spending in the community because normally these stores are closed on Sundays.”
Along with the fashion and culinary options, Gregory said Starkville children participating in Sunday’s Open House will have the opportunity to meet Santa Claus.
“Cookies with Santa is a component of our Open House and it will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in our welcome center in the GSDP office,” she said. “Tickets are $10 per child, which includes meeting Santa, having a professional picture taken by the photographer and receiving a high resolution JPG version for the family to use for Christmas cards or on Facebook.”
Gregory said over 200 children participated in last year’s Cookies with Santa and organizers are hopeful to match that response.
“The children will get to take home some cookie treats, and it’s a great way to get an early start on Christmas cards and for the children to talk to Santa,” she said. “All proceeds will go to the United Way of North Central Mississippi.”
Gregory said she encourages participants to take advantage of the downtown parking areas during Sunday’s event.
“We encourage visitors to respect the two-hour parking signs on Main Street, and there are public lots located behind Starkville Cafe and behind Sullivan’s Office Supply near the corner of Jackson and Lampkin streets,” she said. “Additionally, City Hall and county courthouse lots will be available, so there should be plenty of available parking.”
Gregory said she and organizers are expecting a large crowd Sunday in hopes of continuing a successful tradition with the Christmas Open House.
“Many of our retailers reported that last year was the best Open House they experienced,” she said. “We hope to surpass those numbers this year.”
For more information about the Starkville Christmas Open House, visit http://www.visit.starkville.org  or call the GSDP at 662-323-3322.