COLUMBIA — Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to play they go.
For many retail and office workers, the advent of the holidays means an extended period of something the Seven Dwarves didn't see much of — time off. Many employees are looking forward to a day or two off, a four-day weekend, or in some cases even longer — employees of The Dance Closet in downtown Columbia, which is closed on Mondays, will have a five-day weekend.
Many will spend their time battling dense holiday traffic and navigating thronged airports to visit loved ones. Others will stay close to home and spend hours or days preparing the holiday feast.
But every year, there are those noble, intrepid few who'll endeavor to spend their extra free time on an alien undertaking — relaxing.
"The day before Thanksgiving and the day before Christmas, we see a spike," said Bill Bellinghausen, who works at 9th Street Video on Hitt Street. "People know we're going to be closed and downtown will be dead, so it's like they're stocking up for the war or something."
Bellinghausen said that, counterintuitively, holiday titles won't constitute the majority of movie rentals at holiday time. Sometimes people will request a family-friendly holiday classic, but often people are "getting together with friends" and want to watch whatever the newest releases are.
"There'll be a lot of people watching Star Trek this weekend," he said.
Going to the movies is a popular pastime for holiday pleasure-seekers: Bellinghausen said Christmas and Thanksgiving are two of the biggest sales days for theaters.
Ragtag Cinema will open at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, following a Thanksgiving potluck dinner for its employees. They'll have two showings — one at 8 p.m. and one at 8:30 p.m. Theater manager Michael Lefebvre is expecting a small crowd on Thursday, while Friday will probably be busier.
"Last year was the first time we were open on Thanksgiving... last year we did all right on Friday," Lefebvre said.
A few blocks away, the Missouri Theatre will play weekend host to an entirely different kind of holiday diversion: the 2009 Beaux Arts Bizarre.
"There's a big variety of artists that are coming. There will be things for sale — jewelry, glass, paintings — that the artists themselves have made by hand," said Jeremy Linneman, assistant manager of the box office.
The Bizarre, in existence since 2003, is "not your typical arts and crafts fair," which accounts for the replacement of the word "bazaar."
"One person is bringing gourds that they've grown and painted," Linneman said.
The Bizarre, which will be open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., will feature 42 artists and artisans, who will sell their jewelry, decorative glass, pottery, sculpture, photography and other handcrafted items from booths set up inside the theater.
"It's taking place in the lobby, on the stage, kinda all over the building," Linneman said.
The Bizarre will cater to kids and families, as some booths will have games and other kid-centric activities. The idea is to provide something fun for children to do while adults can browse the booths and get a jump start on their holiday shopping.
Other entertainment-related downtown businesses have already been seeing a steady flow of patrons: A saleswoman at Slackers noticed increased streams of customers, while the small retail space at Get Lost Bookshop was so crowded with browsers that the employee was unreachable.
Holiday relaxation-seekers who aren't interested in new release films, CDs, DVDs, or video games, however, can always stick to the classics: "It's A Wonderful Life" will be given a one-off big screen showing at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Missouri Theatre.