Downtown business owners aim to draw feet to North Street for Festive Frolic

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PITTSFIELD — The city will light its holiday tree on Friday, and also a pilot light for a new annual tradition.

A coalition of downtown business owners are working with Downtown Pittsfield Inc. to throw the first Festive Frolic, from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday. With extended hours, promotional sales and free activities and events, North Street is decked out to make an offer that can't be refused.

The message is clear.

"Hey, it's here!" said Cara Carroll, co-owner of Dory and Ginger. "Come back. Come back to downtown."

Cheryl Mirer, executive director of Downtown Pittsfield Inc., said the idea is to take advantage of the crowd that comes to see the tree lit up in Park Square, and draw them down North Street and celebrate what the downtown business community has been building.

"The membership, led by Cara, really wanted to do something like this," she said.

Carroll said that as more shops move downtown — many of which will stay open late on Friday — there's a growing sense of neighborly camaraderie.

"People are talking to each other more, and I think it's really helping form this sense of community downtown," she said.

When Carroll first opened the home and beauty store three years ago, she said she stayed open late the night of the tree-lighting ceremony in anticipation of a crowd. But her end of the street was dark.

Since then, she said she's seen the city's downtown transform. About six months ago, downtown businesses that belong to Downtown Pittsfield Inc. started meeting monthly to talk about ways they can work together.

The idea for Festive Frolic rose out of those meetings, members said.

"Downtown is changing, and it's changed a lot even in the past three years that we've been open," Carroll said. "Now there's reason to light our end of the street."

From the First Fridays Artswalk, to food and flash mobs, the event hits several fronts. Tickets for Berkshire Museum's Festival of Trees will be discounted in honor of the festivities, and the fourth annual Wreath Art Auction starts at 5 p.m. at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts.

There will be ornament-making and cookie-decorating opportunities at The Funky Phoenix and Dottie's Coffee Lounge, respectively, and a free craft session at Framework from 4 to 8 p.m.

The main event, the holiday tree lighting at Park Square, kicks off at 6 p.m. Santa and Mrs. Claus will make an appearance, as will carolers from Taconic High School.

Lucia's Latin Kitchen serve up warm goodies from a pop-up shop on North Street, and several downtown restaurants will offer specials to mark the occasion.

Hungry frolickers can also grab a hot dog from Grampie's Dog House, which will be in Persip Park from 6 to 8 p.m.

Organizers said festivities will continue into the evening with free salsa lessons at Berkshire Salsa Dance Studio, and live music: Ryder Cooley at the Whitney Center for the Arts, Jim Witherell at Hotel on North and Blue Light Trio at the Rainbow Restaurant.

The event's full itinerary is available at downtownpittsfield.com.

Noel Henebury, sales manager at Hotel on North and member of Pittsfield Inc.'s foot traffic committee, said members wanted to give people a reason to come downtown and explore busy storefronts along North Street.

"My role here at Hotel on North — part of it is to seek a reason to make the day special," she said. "We are to here make a living and to contribute to society, to support Pittsfield, to support businesses in downtown Pittsfield."

Carroll said people are rediscovering downtown, and the fact that her store broke record sales last month for Small Business Saturday is testament to that. Parking is free on Fridays through the end of the holiday season, she noted.

"We're ready," she said. "We just need the people."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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