UPDATE: Several hundred holiday participants passed through the downtown Healdsburg business district on Friday night, first for the carols and tree-lighting, then for exploring the galleries, tasting rooms, shops and restaurants during the annual Healdsburg Holiday Party.
See the gallery attached to this story for images from tonight's festivities. Feel free to add you own photographs to complete the picture of this festival night in Healdsburg, the opening of the holiday shopping season.
On Black Friday, locals can take pride in Healdsburg's lack of a big box store -- if that's a "lack" and not an advantage.
No WalMart or Target or Best Buy here, but most just family-owned businesses that are decades old or optimistic start-up gift stores, cafes and galleries.
These are the shops that celebrate the season with Healdsburg's 2012 Downtown Holiday Party, a five-hour celebration of home town values and bargains.
The Chamber of Commerce lists 29 locations on their map of the day's events, each with its own featured activity (see attachment). Number One is Santa, of course -= the portly patron saint of gifts will be enthroned near the bandstand in the Plaza from 4 to 6 p.m., there to entertain wide-eyed youngsters and their parents with his ho-ho-ho.
Not far away, horse-drawn carriage rides (No. 2 on the map) will offer festive free rides to visitors who want to experience the thrill of a 19th century peregrination around the Plaza and the shops on Healdsburg Ave. up to North Street, then back along Center Street to the corner of Matheson.
Music plays a major part in this afternoon's event, in addition to the ho-ho-ho and clop-clop-clop. Expect to hear at least two choirs a-carolling, a brass quintet, a clarinetist, the HHS Jazz Band, and various other bands and entertainments at shops, galleries and street corners throughout the downtown area.
Also, H-Town Youth Theatre's entire cast of "Winnie the Pooh A Christmas Tail" will also be participating in the party. On Saturday, they will also be there for the Tree Lighting Ceremony.
The festivities include foods and beverages, too, from cheese and sweet treats, teas and baked goodies, and of course wines both still and bubbly to go with the season - Armida wines at Finely Lara's (8) and bubbly at Bella (10) , spiced (and spiked!) cider at Options (13) and artisan cocktails at Barndiva (27).
Jugglers and elves, luminaria and candy canes, fine scarves and holiday decorations, even a Whoville (24, south of the Plaza on Healdsburg Ave.) and the Healdsburg Museum's annual Magical Toyland exhibit (11), with extended open house hours 4:30 - 7:30 p.m.
Best advice? Just set aside a couple hours and walk around to enjoy Healdsburg's Holiday Party. And if you have some thanks left over to give, remember the Chamber of Commerce's slogan this year -- Thankfully, there's Healdsburg.