Tonight is expected to be one of the more festive evenings of the holiday season in Juneau, as hundreds of people are expected to flock to downtown for the 28th annual Gallery Walk.
"The gallery Walk is probably as important to the year-round downtown businesses as the day after Thanksgiving is to the "Big Box" stores," said Larry Spencer, president of the Downtown Business Association. "It really kicks off the season of shopping for those one-of-a-kind unique gifts that people need to review and start thinking about ... what they are going to buy."
More than two-dozen galleries will be open and displaying a large variety of local arts and crafts, some beginning as early as 4 p.m. Many of the downtown building have been decorated, and many of the galleries will be serving a variety of appetizers, hot drinks and wine.
"It's probably the biggest party we hold for the locals in the downtown area throughout the year," Spencer said.
The DBA does not feel the year's economic woes will affect the number of people coming downtown for Gallery Walk, Spencer said.
"It's an occasion to meet and greet your neighbors, for people from the valley and people from downtown to see each other and exchange season's greetings," he said. "It's as much a social occasion that doesn't necessarily involve shopping."
But none the less, it will be a good time for people to begin deciding on what gifts they would like to purchase for friends and family and to see what new works Juneau's local artists are producing, Spencer said. The Juneau Artists Gallery, a co-op gallery owned by local artists, is expected to have 26 artists on hand showing their work and greeting people from throughout the community, he added.
There will also be Christmas carolers singing throughout downtown and people will even have a chance to get free photos taken with Santa Claus at the Capital City Weekly.
The Juneau Parks and Recreation Department is teaming up with the DBA for the 2nd annual Holiday Tree Lighting at 5:30 p.m. in Gunakadeit Park on Franklin Street, which has been known as Pocket Park. The Alaska Youth Choir will be performing Christmas carols and holiday songs for the ceremony, and there will be hot cider served.
Last year nearly 220 people showed up for the tree lighting in the park, Parks and Rec. Director Marc Matsil said.
"It's sort of a nice way to kick off First Friday," he said.
The city has been working to beautify the park, which has generally been known in recent years as a hangout for downtown chronic inebriates. A renovation of the park costing about $650,000 is expected to be completed by spring, Matsil said.
The last piece of the park yet to be completed is a decorative fence that will close the area off at night. The tree lighting ceremony is an example of the events the parks department hopes to encourage in the coming years.
"The goal is to program it with mini arts events. We're looking for temporary sculpture installations to sort of make it a colorful focal point for people to gather at lunch hours and stuff," Matsil said.
Spencer said he hopes people will consider doing some of their holiday shopping at the downtown stores that stay open year round.
"If they were only interested in the volume of business they do they would only open in the summer," he said. "But they live here year round and they are committed to get up every day and they enjoy the exchange of greetings with their neighbors."
Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or email@example.com.