DAYTON -- Instead of getting up in the wee hours to huddle outside of shopping malls and big box stores on Black Friday, some residents of Dayton will be staying in town and participating in a tradition that goes back almost two decades.
They'll be strolling Main Street, sipping hot chocolate, and maybe singing a carol or two in their own slice of Americana as the town celebrates the start of the Christmas season with its annual two-day festival. It harkens back to how the holiday was done before the day after Thanksgiving became a shopping frenzy.
"Our motto is 'We're the town that still believes,' " said Brad McMasters, executive director of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce.
When asked just what belief the town still holds, McMasters' answer was simple and immediate. "The true spirit of Christmas -- that it's better to spend it in the community than ripping the latest video game out of the hands of a grandmother at a big box store."
Dayton will celebrate its annual "Christmas Kick-Off" on Friday and Saturday with hay rides, a lighted Christmas parade, live entertainment -- and a special visit from Santa Claus.
The two-day event was started by the Chamber of Commerce about 20 years ago as an alternative to Black Friday, to encourage residents to stay home, commune with their neighbors and support local businesses.
"It's kind of the polar opposite to Black Friday," McMasters told the Herald. "Everyone will spend the whole day doing this."
McMasters said many of the town's businesses and offices -- even those that aren't shops or restaurants -- open their doors during the weekend and offer cookies, hot cider and cheer.
"It's a really community-based event, community-centric," McMasters said.
But it also attracts people from nearby places such as Walla Walla, Clarkston and the Tri-Cities, he said.
"A lot of people have started making it a tradition to come over," he said.
While the weekend will be chock-full of family-friendly events, it also offers Dayton's wine industry a chance to show off what it has to offer for grown-ups.
Ali Harvey, a director of sales and marketing for Dumas Stations Wines, said the winery will showcase an art show featuring local artist Jill Ingram and offer free wine tasting in its newly opened train-themed tasting room.
"We're trying to give people an alternative and keep their dollars local," Harvey said.
But those who opt to participate in the Black Friday frenzy are welcome to come by and unwind after they're done fighting the mall crowds, she said.
"It's kind of a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere rather than hustle and bustle so they can enjoy themselves," Harvey said.
Dayton Mayor Craig George said the annual late November event is something businesses and residents look forward to every year.
"It's just kind of an old-fashioned Christmas," he said. "It's one of the things that makes Dayton a unique little town. ... I think it's just America at its best."
This year's celebration also will showcase the town's commitment to renewable energy. Pacific Power and its Blue Sky customers are "greening" Dayton's holiday lights in Flour Mill Park and on Main Street by supporting renewable energy equal to the total electricity used to power the holiday lights.
This year's greening supports 12 megawatt hours of western region wind energy, which has the same environmental benefit as planting 176 trees or not driving a car 15,182 miles -- that's about 250 round trips from Dayton to Walla Walla, according to a news release from Pacific Power.
For a full schedule of events, go to www.historicdayton.com.