Inaugural holiday stroll to close Main Street in Northampton Dec. 9


  • In this file photo, Santa Claus waves to people on Elm Street in Northampton. Santa will make an appearance next Friday, Dec. 9, when the city holds its first-ever Holiday Stroll downtown. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 12/1/2016 7:29:35 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The holidays will be celebrated this year in Northampton like never before, with the Downtown Northampton Association hosting the first-ever downtown Holiday Stroll Dec. 9.

A part of Main Street will be closed off for vehicle traffic — from Strong Avenue to State Street — as pedestrians indulge themselves in holiday spirit. The list of activities on tap just might be longer than Santa’s. The event will run Friday from 5 to 8 p.m.

“It’ll be a very warm, community-oriented, family-friendly downtown event … we’re hoping it will be the visual that you have in your head when you think of a holiday stroll,” said Amy Cahillane, director of the DNA.

According to Cahillane, the Holiday Stroll is a great way for people to experience all that Main Street has to offer. Many people are accustomed to driving through the area avoiding pedestrians, but this free event encourages them to explore and really take in their surroundings.

The event will allow local stores and restaurants to be showcased, but also bring the community together for the holidays, Cahillane said, adding that Northampton’s local businesses were supportive of the idea.

“You wouldn’t get that level of participation if we were just a strip mall of chain stores,” she said.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said the city has been working with the Downtown Business Association for months on the event and providing all kinds of logistical support behind the scenes.

“This is an idea that the Downtown Business Association developed and brought forward,” Narkewicz said. “I think it’s exciting. There’s been talk over the years of doing some experiments with closing Main Street and this was their attempt to try to create a unique holiday event for downtown Northampton.”

Narkewicz will be playing his part in the event with a holiday book reading at Broadside Bookshop on Main Street, he said.

“It’s the first time something like this has been attempted,” he said. “There’s been a lot of thought that’s gone into the logistics of this. We’ve been trying to work collaboratively with them (DNA) throughout the whole process and support the event.”

The widespread support has resulted in an event that appeals to people of all ages, according to Cahillane. The activities will be varied.

Children can have their face painted and pose with Santa Claus, while adults can head over to Fitzwilly’s for an outdoor beer party.

Holiday strollers can roast marshmallows in a fire pit by Thornes Marketplace, sing carols with the Pioneer Valley Symphony Chorus, or compete in a burger eating contest at Local Burger.

Guests have the opportunity to sample food and drinks from local restaurants while dancing along to music spun by a live DJ from Hits 94.3. The event will include hayrides through downtown, gingerbread house making and street performances. Pointy ears and tights are encouraged, since there will even be an elf costume contest in Thornes Marketplace.

“It’s the first time that we’ve ever closed down Main Street for a party right in the middle of downtown, so it’s a unique event,” Cahillane said. “We’re hoping it’s the first of many times we do one of these in-the-street block parties downtown.”

She said the DNA would like to hold a similar event in the summer.

The DNA is a new organization pioneered this year that strives to improve the business and cultural strength of downtown Northampton.

Cahillane said the group has been planning the holiday stroll since July with the help of the mayor’s office and various city departments, downtown businesses and many sponsors.

“I think for both the DNA and the city it will be a learning experience,” Narkewicz said.

Parking for the event will be available at all of the municipal parking lots and the parking garage.

Additionally, there will be satellite parking on Conz Street at the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the senior center, and a trolley will provide transportation for people to Main Street. Another satellite parking lot will be on King Street, but it has not yet been determined which lot will be used. A PVTA bus will bring people to the site from there.

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