Downtown Knoxville is gearing up to give people a taste of the holiday season this week through its Christmas in the City events.
The Regal Celebration of Lights draws in more than 10,000 people to the downtown area each year. At 6 p.m. Friday, the downtown Christmas tree in Krutch Park Extension will be lit, kicking off a season of holiday celebrations.
"It keeps the downtown and Knoxville area vibrant," said Judith Foltz, director of special events for the city of Knoxville. "I feel like it's a very important part of making and keeping this city a vibrant city."
Foltz said planning for Christmas in the City starts as soon as the 4th of July celebration is over. She said it takes more than 100,000 lights, at least 600 ornaments, more than 40 trees and eight public service employees putting up decorations to transform the downtown area into a winter wonderland.
The main downtown Christmas tree in Krutch Park Extension is two years old and stands 42 feet tall with more than 5,000 LED lights, Foltz said.
Planning for the ice rink in Market Square starts in January, Foltz said, and it takes about three weeks to build with 20 public service employees working on it.
It's all to bring people downtown and show residents and visitors all that Knoxville has to offer.
"It is something we hope everybody enjoys as much as we enjoy putting it on," Foltz said.
Michele Hummel, director of Downtown Knoxville, said they are working on events and programs that will help businesses gain more foot traffic from the holiday crowds.
"We've developed several different programs, one called the Peppermint Trail, and it's geared toward drawing people into businesses," Hummel said. "And then also, Elf on the Shelf. That is in particular to draw feet into a store."
Downtown Knoxville is now home to 81 restaurants and more than 50 shops and personal services. Hummel said these businesses have seen a growth in sales over the past five years.
According to Hummel, downtown restaurants have seen a sales growth in the last five years from $60 million to $86 million. Shops and personal services have grown in that same period from $27 million to $34 million in sales.
"Downtown provides the unique opportunity of the local stores and the unique opportunities that you don't get at other locations and Amazon and things," Hummel added.
The businesses are encouraged to get on board by participating in these programs and adding decorations.
Megan Chase, a foreman for Shady Grove Landscapes, spent Tuesday afternoon sprucing up the patio of Cafe Four, changing out the pumpkins for Christmas lights.
"I put my Christmas music on and just get to work," Chase said. "I love it. The smell, it all smells like Christmas."
Chase said she'll spend a few hours changing out the landscaping on a project like this, but it's all worth it to hear people's reactions.
"I had said let me make your patio more inviting to really bring people in, and I think it did the trick," Chase added.
Click here for a full list of Christmas in the City events.