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Decoration Day
Staff Reports,
04:22PM / Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quiet carolers are caught midnote in the iBerkshires window.

Anyone who's been downtown lately has noticed the spirit of the season on full display.

Storefronts have been blazing with lights, decorated with trees and Christmas balls, snowflakes and Santas, giant nutcrackers and all kinds of interesting merchandise.

On Thursday night, downtown shoppers will have the chance to decide which is the best.

The decorating idea sprang up during meetings held earlier this fall by downtown merchants to promote the "Buy Local" campaign locally. (Members pointedly reminded those on the "shady side" of the street to dress up, too. And we have, just you see!) To encourage participation, the group decided to create a contest for the best window and offer a prize.

Judges will be perusing the city's best-dressed windows at this week's Hometown for the Holidays event on Thursday night to select the storefront with the best holiday spirit. Since judges' choices rarely please everyone, downtown patrons will decide the People's Choice.

The contest is part of the Hometown Holidays events that kicked off with the tree lighting on Thanksgiving Eve and has continued on the traditional Thursday shopping nights. Merchants and restaurants have been offering specials and discounts; the Mystery Shopper has also returned after decades of absence to lure shoppers downtown with the promise of gift certificates.

This Thursday, celebrity judges Mayor Richard Alcombright, Rep. Daniel E. Bosley and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Executive Director Joseph C. Thompson will be peeking in windows of participating businesses around Main, Holden and Eagle streets beginning at 5.

The judges will announce their choice at 6 p.m. at Petrino's Cafe. The winner gets a night at the Porches and dinner at Gramercy Bistro.

Then the public gets to weigh in. Local stores and volunteers with the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center will have contest forms available beginning at 5; get them back to Petrino's by 6:45 for the People's Choice winner to be announced at 7. The winner gets dinner for two at Taylor's.

While you're downtown, don't just look at the windows, step into the shops and check out the merchandise. Most stores will be open until 9 so there's plenty of time after the contest to circle back to that must-have item.

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