CAIRO β€” An annual downtown Christmas shopping event is taking on a different look this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year's Cairo Mistletoe Market will take place at the Gate 16 Plaza downtown throughout December.

Business hours at the Plaza will be extended, and downtown merchants will be encouraged to do the same to give customers extra shopping time at the end of the work day.

The modified event will kick off this year on November 28, known to small business owners as "Small Business Saturday."

Vendors will have the option to set up inside the Plaza for a day, a week, or the entire month. Event organizers say the building was chosen because it is already sectioned off into smaller "incubator spaces" for vendors to start their businesses without high overhead costs.

Main Street director Alyssa Blakley said spreading the Mistletoe Market out over the course of a month will help boost sales and exposure for downtown merchants and restaurants, recover lost sales for local crafters and help shoppers feel safer due to a lack of large crowds.

β€œThe holiday season is such an important time for our merchants downtown, as it is their busiest time of year for sales,” Blakley said.

Initially created in 2015, the Mistletoe Market brings Christmas shoppers across Grady County to downtown Cairo to support local crafters and provide exposure for the city. The annual arts and crafts fair has grown in the five years since its inception, attracting more than 80 vendors last year and hundreds of attendees.

Though neighboring communities have chosen to cancel larger holiday events this year due to the pandemic, Blakley said Main Street worked to design an alternative that would "provide a safe shopping experience for everyone."

"I really did not want to see our downtown small businesses miss out on holiday sales this year, so our planning committee put our heads together to discuss a few alternatives," she said.

For more information about the event or how to become a vendor, contact the Cairo Main Street Program at 229-377-1722, extension 185.

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