Living Windows Festival brings live models to downtown storefronts Friday

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 | 7:21 p.m. CST; updated 7:35 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 4, 2012

COLUMBIA — At Elly's Couture on Friday, a young woman dressed in Betsey Johnson pajamas will open her Christmas presents, including dresses fit for a New Year's Eve ball, in full view of Broadway and its many window shoppers and pedestrians. 

Throughout The District, live models will take the place of mannequins in downtown window displays as part of the Living Windows Festival, which takes place on the first Friday of December and has occurred for about 20 years, according to Carrie Gartner, executive director of the district. 

If you go

What: Live window displays, open houses, holiday treats and refreshments, live holiday music, free carriage rides through downtown, a live Nativity scene and Santa Claus at Landmark Bank.

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7

Where: The District in downtown Columbia

Admission: Free

The district, in preparation for the holiday shopping season, will be adorned with holiday lights, marching carolers, free carriage rides and a visit from Santa Claus at Landmark Bank.

Several businesses downtown will participate in the event, including food establishments such as SubZone, Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream and The Candy Factory.

Many of the businesses have planned themes for the night, some of which are quirky and inspired by Christmas pop culture of the past. Slacker's CDs & Games' theme is "Nightmare Before Christmas," a reference to Tim Burton's 1993 animated feature, which blended Halloween with Christmas. Makes Scents, a custom fragrance shop on Ninth Street, will draw inspiration from Sherwood Schwartz's legendary TV show with "A Very Brady Christmas." At Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream, disco will meet the North Pole with "Holiday Night Fever." 

Ashley Aspinwall, assistant manager of Elly's Couture said the shop will have a model in the window to bring people into the store.

The store wants to encourage people to buy locally, she said.

Ruth LaHue, owner of My Secret Garden on East Broadway, said the store's themes in previous years included "The Nutcracker," "Run, Run, as Fast You Can, I'm the Gingerbread Man" and "Chinese New Year's."

She said she particularly enjoys seeing faces at the festival and remembers a particularly touching moment from a past year. 

LaHue said a man came in and said, "I recently had some crises in my life, but when I was looking in your window at the little girl running like the Gingerbread Man, I just told myself, 'It's going to be a good Christmas.'"

First Christian Church traditionally puts on a live Nativity scene on the church's lawn for 10 to 15 minutes at the festival. It is repeated every half hour. 

First Christian Church Associate Minister Jimmy Spear said many of the church's members, from the children to adults and retirees, participate in the performance.

Gartner said aside from promoting local businesses, the event is meant to bring the community together. LaHue agreed.

"I feel like all of these kinds of celebrations have a unifying effect on our community," LaHue said. "It makes us feel like we all have one heart and one spirit."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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