The Christmas shopping season is set to begin in earnest with a busy weekend for merchants throughout Missoula, and downtown is no exception.

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are nationwide aspects of this first holiday shopping weekend, but the Missoula Downtown Association adds its own flavor to the mix. Program Director for the MDA, Jennifer Mueller said on Wednesday, November 27, that downtown is the quintessential small business venue for western Montana.

"We're hitting Small Business Saturday pretty hard," Mueller said. "We have a lot of small, locally-owned businesses right here in downtown Missoula, so we're promoting that event. Also, we'll be starting our free downtown gift-wrapping at the MSO Hub very soon, and that's for all December long."

One event that is a favorite for Missoulians is the Downtown Parade of Lights.

"This year it's on December seventh, which just happens to be the day the Grizzlies have their playoff game," Mueller said. "We're pretty excited because we'll have all those extra people in town for the game who will come downtown shopping, dining and spending their money in our local economy."

And, of course, Santa will be available downtown, as well.

"We'll have Santa and Mrs. Claus at Liquid Planet every Saturday and Sunday in December from noon to 4 p.m. and we'll also be having free horse-drawn carriage rides on East Pine Street from 2 to 6 p.m. starting on December eighth," Mueller said.

MDA Program Director Jennifer Mueller