LEE -- As with any inaugural event, the Chamber of Commerce's Floating Holiday Party Wednesday evening saw some missteps in planning, but that was part of the learning process. And a festive one at that.

Touting red buttons and a "passport," about 60 participants took to Lee shops and restaurants on Main Street that stayed open a few hours later than usual to spread Christmas cheer through sweet treats and sweet deals. Four restaurants hosted meals throughout the evening, and hole-punched or stamped the passport as participants arrived.

"The concept is to bring people downtown," Chamber President Bruce Singer said. "For $15, you basically get a holiday dinner."

The party generated about $750 that will be dispersed to the participating restaurants, Singer said.

Attendance was capped at 100. Though more than half the tickets were sold, Singer said he was hoping to sell all 100 and for more buzz in the community.

"We really started planning late," Singer said. "We have to start a little earlier next year."

In previous years, the holiday celebration in Lee was relegated to carolers and Mr. and Mrs. Claus in the park, but Singer said the Chamber of Commerce "wanted something a little bit more adult and business-oriented."

Lee resident Susan Brighenti was one of a trio of girlfriends who went out in the evening chill to partake in the floating party.

"We're out having fun," Brighenti said. "It's great to promote the local stores, and there are some great stores downtown."

Each of the four participating restaurants hosted a 45-minute meal portion before attendees moved on to the next place: Morgan House Inn had cheese, crackers and spirits; Starving Artists Cafe had mini crepes and a coffee bar; Salmon Rush Fish House offered lobster bisque and clam chowder and Chez Nous had an assortment of sweets for desserts.

"This sums up what a small New England town is all about," Morgan House Inn co-owner Pamela Loring said as laughter, live music, clinking silverware and Santa Claus' "Ho ho ho" echoed in the background.

The eight participating businesses that stayed open later enticed party-goers with sweets or deals. Paperdilly, an office supply store, stayed open until 7 p.m. and served sweets.

"It was a new experience for all of us," said Sally Wilcox, the co-owner of Paperdilly. "I've had people come in that I've not seen before, which is great."

To reach Adam Poulisse:
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