Downtown Columbia’s Living Windows Festival spreads holiday cheer throughout community

The festival spanned throughout the entirety of downtown Columbia and participants spanned from kids to store owners to volunteers. It was a festival that united the district to kickstart the holiday season.

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Downtown Columbia hosted the Living Windows Festival on Friday Dec. 7, an event in which stores downtown created themed live window displays. The streets were full of people peering into store windows and crowding around a Santa playing the flute.

“Living Windows is a fabulous event for people in the community and around that brings the community out downtown,” Paula McFarling, participator and Bluestem Missouri Crafts store partner said. “There’s music, there’s food and there’s entertainment. It’s so much fun to just walk around and see people you know and be outside with the community.”

The event was full of families and students enjoying the displays and soaking in the holiday spirit.

“Where I’m from, we don’t have anything like this so I thought it was really cool how the shops were handing out hot chocolate and apple cider and all of that,” bystander Shelby Lewis said. “I was really interested in coming because I love Christmas and back home we don’t get to experience it like you do here.”

Participants included stores and charities, such as the Central Missouri Humane Society, Blanc Studio and Poppy. The Central Missouri Humane Society partnered with Berkshire Hathaway to spread awareness about cats for adoption.

“Living Windows has been going on in Columbia for quite some time,” Michelle Casey, participator and associate director of the Central Missouri Humane Society, said. “We teamed up with Berkshire Hathaway last year and they have a beautiful, big window and had a great idea to put some cats in it. It makes a beautiful window and draws attention; we end up adopting at least a handful of cats after an event like this.”

At Fringe Boutique, the theme was the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. According to co-owner Morgan Pingle, the event is a great way to drive business.

“A lot of the stores, restaurants, and buildings downtown pick a theme, dress up, set up displays and get in the windows,” Pingle said. “People are enjoying it and they’re laughing. They’re coming in and saying they really like our window display.”

There was a range of displays, from the “Nightmare Before Christmas” film to a completely black and white window.

“My favorite display was “Nightmare Before Christmas’,” Lewis said. “I love that movie, and it was really cool how they did the lighting and the costumes and the effort they put into making it.”

Many of the stores had cookies and cider for onlookers to snack on. In fact, Pingle describes the event as a fun way to drive new people downtown.

“Living Windows is a good way to kick off the holiday season and get people thinking about coming downtown and shopping downtown,” Pingle said. “Even if they aren’t shopping tonight, they might see a new store and realize they haven’t been there. Maybe they’ll come back another day when they’re shopping for Christmas.”

The Living Windows Festival offers people a new look into downtown Columbia as they venture in and out of many different stores. The festival benefits local businesses as well by displaying what they have to offer with small town charm and holiday spirit.

“I think this event is a really good idea, especially with the movement of shopping locally rather than online or corporate stores,” Lewis said. “It is really important to keep local stores open because it provides a community that corporations can’t offer.”

The event was about community and the whole town participated, McFarling said. The Living Windows Festival extended throughout the district and brought businesses and onlookers together as one community in downtown Columbia.

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