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Downtown businesses bring holidays to life with Living Windows Festival

Friday, December 2, 2011 | 8:31 p.m. CST; updated 10:00 p.m. CST, Friday, December 2, 2011
Performers dance to songs outside My Secret Garden during the Living Windows Festival in downtown Columbia on Friday. The girls pretended to play instruments as part of the skit, "Rockin' around the Christmas Tree."

COLUMBIA — Broadway was more lit up than usual Friday night, as revelers descended upon The District to watch holiday festivities brought to life in store windows and munch on free treats from various local businesses.

The Living Windows Festival is an annual celebration that marks the beginning of extended holiday hours for many businesses in The District. In addition to the holiday scenes being acted out, many stores hosted open houses with additional sale merchandise or cookies and beverages for the crowds passing through. The festival has happened every holiday season for more than 20 years, and this year, 19 businesses participated.

“The first time we did it, we got second prize, and we didn’t even know it was a competition,” said Ruth LaHue, owner of My Secret Garden. “We’ve gotten first prize ever since then.”

My Secret Garden’s contribution this year included a stage with dueling Christmas elf bands lip-synching holiday tunes and dancing for the crowds. Because the store generally has intricate and fragile window displays, they chose to perform outside in the park between their building and Landmark Bank.

When the electricity in the park stopped working shortly before the show, an employee from the bank rushed over to fix it for their neighbors, in a true show of holiday spirit.

Visitors to Landmark Bank got to see Santa and tell him all of their Christmas wishes.

“I’m pretty heavy,” said Ayla Coke as she hopped on Santa’s lap. “I’m five and a half!”

“And I’m four!” said her brother, Dutch, as he, too, took a seat on Santa’s knee. “And I want a giant gumball machine, because it’s pretty!”

After explaining that he’d do his best to bring Ayla and Dutch what they asked for, Santa welcomed 11-month-old Layla to his lap. On her first-ever visit with Santa, Layla immediately burst into tears, while her mother, Callie Moxley, tickled her to try to elicit a smile for the camera.

There was only laughter outside of Maude Vintage, where employees acted out rhymes from their Christmas version of Edward Gorey’s morbid children’s story, The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

“We tried to come up with a way to make it not morbid, but still mischievous,” store manager Nikki Pyatt said.

Christian Ortiz, 10, said that the window at Maude Vintage was his favorite of the evening. Ortiz attended the festival with his parents and 3-year-old sister.

“This is our first year at Living Windows,” said Ortiz’s mother, Lupe. “We just moved here from Chicago. People are much friendlier here.” 

That seemed to be the general consensus of the Living Windows Festival, where street musicians, families, students and even some dogs mingled together to sip cider and enjoy the holiday spirit.


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