Christmas spirit fills downtown
Park Rapids' downtown came alive Friday night with the lighting of a magnificent tree, the sounds of Christmas carols and the lowing of cattle at a live Nativity.
Merchants stayed open late to serve gourmet nibbles and start ringing cash registers as brisk sales began.
At midnight, the new start to Black Friday, the Walmart parking lot was a mob scene as shoppers hurried to get the best deals on home electronics.
Saturday morning weary clerks came back to work and did it all over again, especially downtown, where many businesses were catering to the second annual celebration of the national push for "Small Business Saturday."
"Oh, we're ready," said a cheery Chris Hardy of Evergreen's Holiday Gift Express.
"Boy, was it crazy in here last night," clerks from Wildwood Enchantment and RiverBend Home Expressions admitted Saturday. Fresh Catch decorated Friday night guests with leis, which was appropriate for the balmy temperatures.
Daisy Beckwith, a clerk at Zulu, was busy Saturday pointing out deals that included custom patterns that could be imprinted on many items in the store.
"It takes less than a minute," she said,
Jim Johnson, a Hubbard resident, was shopping Saturday after joining hundreds downtown the night before.
He said it was all good.
"We love downtown Park Rapids," Johnson said. "We're trying to do as much shopping as possible on Small Business Saturday."
Johnson left laden with unique Christmas gifts and offers to wrap and package them.
"Oh, you want this one? Just take it off the display," said the proprietor of Aunt Belle's Confectionary to a customer who wanted a distinctive mailbox cover the store had run out of.
Customers said it was that warm customer service that keeps bringing them back downtown, along with the charm of an old-fashioned family celebration.