A store displays holiday cheer during the Living Windows celebration from two years ago, on Dec. 4. Photo by Skyler Froese

When the crisp winter air reaches the heart of Downtown Columbia, the city will come to life. Accompanying the howling winds through the creaky windows of local stores will be the giggles and gasps of excited children and faint ringing of silver bells. At the Downtown Community Improvement District’s (The District) annual Living Windows Festival, live performances and displays in store windows and sweet aromas draw in people of all ages to ignite warm spirits in the cold season.

The District puts on the festival annually at the beginning of December. The event is a way to bring Columbia together to engage in a fun, family-friendly atmosphere at no cost, said Assistant Director of Outreach of Downtown CID Gabriela Cutrera. Community members can come downtown on Friday, Dec. 1 from 6-8 p.m. to enjoy the festival, and parking garages will be free of charge after 6 p.m.

“Most of the displays will have some sort of holiday theme, but it is not required that [stores] do a holiday theme. It is up to the individual retailers to decide what kind of display they want to do in their window space,” Cutrera said. “Community members can also find holiday treats, gift items for purchase, strolling carolers, and parents can also bring their children to Landmark Bank for a visit with Santa.”

Junior Kiren MacLeod, who regularly attends the festival, said it is his family’s tradition to eat dinner downtown before the festival then explore The District.

“I’d say that the atmosphere is jubilant,” MacLeod said. “It always seems like everyone is having a good time, and the lights and colorful displays in all the windows just further that atmosphere.”

MacLeod appreciates all of the work retailers put into creating their displays or performances that it’s impossible for him to pick a favorite.

Other people who attend the festival, however, have a specific venue they make sure to see every year. For example, junior Drew Morris enjoys stopping by The Candy Factory as well as Tellulah’s Organic Kitchen and Bakery to see live displays, as well as meet up with friends.

“The festival shows the community coming together to celebrate the holidays,” Morris said.  “I love seeing the joy on people’s faces seeing their friends and family downtown.”

Just as Morris admires the unity of his festival experience, to Cutrera, the Living Windows Festival is way to bring the city together to savor the holiday season together.

“The purpose is to create an experience downtown for the community,” Cutrera said. “The event is our way of celebrating the holiday season and allowing our retailers to display their creativity in a unique way that entertains and excites people. Especially in today’s era of online shopping, it is so important to us as the Downtown CID to provide these kinds of experiences and events that Columbians can look forward to every year.”

Do you plan on attending the Living Windows Festival? Let us know in the comments below.

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