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The streets of uptown Athens, Ohio are decorated with wreaths and lights for the holiday season. Dec. 5, 2023.

Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, local businesses bring holiday cheer uptown

On Court Street, storefronts are adorned with festive decor. Every coffee shop has begun selling holiday-themed treats. The bricks are illuminated by blue and white string lights. There’s no place like "hOUme" for the holidays. 

To add to the holiday cheer, the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, AACC, will be hosting its annual, “AACC Uptown for the Holidays” events throughout December. 

The AACC has been leading the holiday initiative in uptown Athens for the past two decades. Kristin Slemmer, the AACC marketing and PR specialist, said she is eager to be a part of the organizing efforts yet again.

“We are just hoping to bring people together and give that opportunity for connection in our community,” Slemmer said. 

Slemmer explained the purpose of the AACC uptown holiday events is twofold — to create a sense of community while also encouraging support for local businesses.

“A lot of our businesses rely on this time of year for their income, and statistics show that for every $100 spent at a local business, about $67 stays in that local community,” Slemmer said. “Spending your dollars locally really does mean that that money is staying locally.”

The festivities are set to kick off with opening night Dec. 8 between 6-8 p.m. Events are provided by the AACC, AACC members, the City of Athens and the Athens Uptown Business Association. 

Opening night will encompass numerous free family activities like bracelet making, cookie decorating, crafts and face painting, all hosted by local businesses. 

The Little Professor Book Center will be hosting a story time event, featuring readings of Christmas classics and winter-themed titles including “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “'Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Nicholas Polsinelli, owner of the Little Professor, said he will be reading for the event, trying his best to give a believable Grinch impression to add to the holiday spirit. As Polsinelli explained, the story time event was a hit last year.

“It was great because we had a whole bunch of community involvement and people reading and different voices and all that kind of stuff,” Polsinelli said.

Opening night will also include the annual community tree lighting by Santa Claus outside of the Athens County Municipal Courthouse. In preparation for the lighting, Passion Works Studios created eccentric ornaments to decorate the tree. 

Simone Villavicencio, the lead production artist at Passion Works, said each ornament represents a local business. One ornament is in the shape of a bagel sandwich in honor of Bagel Street Deli; another is a gallon of milk for Snowville Creamery. 

“We all got to collaborate on the design of the ornaments, the actual painting of the ornaments, so a lot of different hands went into that work,” Villavicencio said.

For the entire team at Passion Works, being able to decorate the tree and become involved in community efforts is important.

“We consider ourselves a part of the community and being able to have our artists really feel at home and connected with their community is also part of our mission,” Villavicencio said. “When we're able to be a part of that, it just makes us happy that we do what we do.”

Other events in December include horse-drawn wagon rides, holiday film showings and live music.

“It gives us the opportunity to give back to the people that helped us and the people that patronize our local businesses,” Slemmer said. “(It’s the opportunity to) really just say, "thank you" for their support and show also that our businesses are an important part of the vibrant community that we have in Athens.”

ab532721@ohio.edu 

@abbyblosee

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