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'Shop Locally, Shop Early, Mail Early'

Estate, Business Representatives Tout Local Establishments

Three tourist attractions and three businesses brought holiday invitations and helpful suggestions to the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce First Tuesday Business Lunch.

Billed as "Christmas in Mount Vernon and Lee," the program, at Pema's Restaurant on Richmond Highway, featured speakers from the Mount Vernon Estate, Woodlawn Plantation, Gunston Hall, Sunflower Florists, Parcels Plus, and Holly Wood & Vine. Each attraction touted its holiday special presentations, while the businesses offered suggestions on gifts, decorations and how to ship gifts.

Kicking off the program, Stephanie Pace Brown, director of marketing, Mount Vernon Estate, urged the audience to come to the first president's home during the holidays to enjoy a journey into the past. "Our Mount Vernon by Candlelight tours just began this past weekend, and they offer a truly historical view of Christmas at that time," she stated. (See related story Page 3.).

"On Dec. 14, the anniversary of Washington's death, there are special events," she noted. Brown urged those present to visit the Mount Vernon Gift and Christmas shops "for those special items."

She was followed by Liz Williams, representing Woodlawn Plantation, which also has candlelight tours on Dec. 15, 22 and 29. They are accompanied by period music and a needlework exhibit.

The final tourist attraction urging holiday visitations was Gunston Hall, represented by Linda Hartman. The emphasis of its holiday presentation centers around George Mason's authorship of the Virginia Declaration of Rights.

"We also have caroling and fiddle music, as well as living-history actors who portray events of that time," Hartman explained. The re-enactments will be held Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7, from 7-10 p.m., as a feature of Gunston Hall’s "Plantation Christmas," according to Hartman.

A NEW ATTRACTION this year is the lighting of the George Mason garden at Gunston Hall. "This area will be lighted on the perimeter as a part of our candlelight tours, Dec. 12 and 13 from 5-8 p.m. each night," Hartman said. There will be holiday tours and tea on Dec. 15 at noon and 2 p.m. No reservations are required for Gunston Hall events.

One of the big challenges faced by holiday shoppers with relatives and friends in faraway places is shipping the gifts properly and on time. Roger Anderson, owner, Parcel Plus, Belle View Shopping Center, offered a variety of tips for making this chore more successful and less stressful.

"This time of the year is our peak. We do 30 percent of our annual volume during December," he said. "UPS ships 300 million packages in December.

"Come in early, hopefully before Dec. 14. But if you do show up on Dec. 22 and insist that the package must arrive by Dec. 24, that's also good — for my cash register."

ANDERSON OFFERED the following tips when shipping packages for the holidays:

. Ship early, particularly if it's going a long distance, no later than Dec. 14;

. Prices are based on weight and dimension. It is better to ship several smaller packages than one big one; "Remember, there is only one person to a truck and they have to lift that 125-pound box," he emphasized;

. It's best to use new boxes. Don't use boxes that are battered. Don't use liquor boxes; they may be opened to make sure they do not contain alcohol. Don't wrap in just brown paper;

. Don't use string or Scotch tape to seal boxes. Use a good packing tape;

. Leave at least two inches of packing around items in boxes. Put fragile items in a box within a box surrounded by bubble wrap or similar material. Don't use newspaper; there is not enough concussion resistance under shipping conditions;

. Make sure the address is absolutely correct. If sending to an apartment, make sure that number is part of the address, not just the building address.

Businesses of the final two speakers emphasized holiday decorations. John Johnson, owner, Holly Wood & Vine nursery, located in the 8400 block of Richmond Highway, stated they offer a full line of both trees and decorative items.

"We have a new breed of evergreen this year. It is similar to a Frazer fir but with longer needles, which makes it easier to decorate," he said. They also offer evergreen roping, handmade wreaths and a wide variety of other decorative items.

Philip Son, owner, Sunflower Florist in Beacon Hall, 6678 Richmond Highway, noted that a mix of candles and floral designs "is perfect for the holidays." He also stressed, "We can make floral centerpieces and other accessories right up to Dec. 24."