By Bruce Amaro
---- — It will have all the holiday trimmings.
There will be plenty of places to shop or grab a bite to eat or a drink.
Musicians and carolers will wander the streets, entertaining everyone who visits the downtown for this celebration.
Children can enjoy special activities such as face painting and cookie decorating.
And of course, there will be a visit by Santa and the lighting of Haverhill’s big community Christmas tree.
The annual Christmas Stroll is about to take over the downtown. The event is expected to bring thousands of visitors who will boost the sales of local merchants, enjoy socializing with family and friends, and kick off the heart of the Christmas season.
A long-standing holiday tradition, this year’s stroll will be Dec. 7 from 5 to 8 p.m. It will wind down with a 7:45 p.m. visit from Santa.
Hosted by the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, the event will be sponsored by Haverhill Bank, Covanta Energy, Pentucket Medical Associates, Trinity Emergency Medical Services, Haverhill Family Eye Care, Garland and Bows, and Bethany Homes Activities.
Organizers said the stroll will mix traditional entertainment, activities and holiday treats with a shop-in-Haverhill theme. The shopping program will kick off a two-week discount program encouraging people to shop locally during the holiday season, the chamber said.
“The downtown Christmas Stroll has always been about kids and families,” said Sven Amirian, president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce. “But the stroll is also about local business. This chamber event brings over 7,000 participants to the Haverhill downtown every year, and we are focused even more this year on the importance of making sure all these potential customers interact with our chamber restaurants and retailers.’’
Local retailers plan to spice up the gift-buying with a two-part shopping event, called Shop Local 2013, which begins at 3 p.m. Saturday, two hours before the official Christmas stroll events. The streets will close to vehicles at 3 p.m. for the Shop Local event, which merchants plan to continue for two weeks after the stroll.
The major part of the event will be a raffle with Downtown Haverhill Shopping Spree grand prize. To enter the raffle, any shopper who shops or dines downtown must go to the chamber booth during the stroll, validate sales receipts and receive a raffle ticket for every $5 spent, organizers said.
In addition to the raffle, the purchase of a Shop Local 2013 pin for $5 entitles shoppers to 20-percent discounts at participating retailers and a free appetizer with a meal at participating restaurants.
But the stroll is not just about shopping and eating.
Businesses will host activities including face painting, cookie decorating, photos with Santa, ornament decorating, magic shows and arts and crafts. Children will meet and get autographs from their favorite super heroes and TV characters. On hand will be Batman and Robin, Captain America, Big Bird, Elmo and other characters.
Carolers and a variety of musicians will provide background music and street entertainment for the crowds.
As away to attract more people to the downtown around the Wingate Street area, the Downtown Haverhill Committee will implement lighting of alleys linking Washington Street to the Wingate Street arts district.
Cars parked on the following streets during the stroll will be removed: Washington Street, Washington Square, Merrimack Street up to How Street, Essex Street up to Wingate Street, and Emerson Street up to Bailey Boulevard.
The stroll extends to these streets which will not be closed: The beginning of Merrimack Street up to How Street, Wingate Street, Granite Street and Railroad Square.
IF YOU GO
What: Annual Christmas Stroll
When: Dec. 7 from 5 to 8 p.m., with a special local shopping event starting at 3 p.m. Streets will close to vehicles at 3 p.m. and reopen at 9 p.m.
Where: Downtown Haverhill
Activities: Shopping at local stores, dining at local restaurants and lounges, Christmas tree lighting with Santa at 7:45 p.m.