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Holiday Shopping As It Used To Be

Alexandria shoppers are home for the holidays.

Shoppers throughout Alexandria this holiday season can also win a gift for themselves — a winter shopping spree valued at more than $2,000. It's all part of the "Find Alex" program which runs from Nov. 26 to Dec. 24.

Forty one Alexandria retail shops, in both Old Town and Del Ray, are participating in the program to encourage residents to do their holiday shopping at home. Shoppers can register in any of the listed stores to win the shopping spree. The winner will be announced at First Night Alexandria, Dec. 31.

"The response by local merchants to our holiday shopping promotion has been tremendous. We couldn't be more pleased," said Jo Anne Mitchell, president and CEO, Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association.

"Our merchants are joining together to create a festive holiday shopping experience in Alexandria. This includes decorating with a common theme that reflects our Scottish heritage. "Alex," our spokes-Scottie for the holiday season, carries the Scottish theme as the focal point of the promotion," she said.

In order to participate in the promotion, retailers have agreed to stay open, at a minimum, from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays. In addition, each has agreed to donate a $50 certificate to be used during January and February 2005.

"Alex," a stuffed Scottish Terrier wearing a tartan tam and a gold medallion tied with tartan ribbon around his neck, will be visible in the windows of the participating shops. He will be moved from shop to shop throughout the promotion, according to ACVA.

In order to be eligible to register for the shopping spree, shoppers must "Find Alex." To increase the odds of success there will be three toy Scotties that venture among the participating stores.

"Alex" can also become part of the holiday gift list. Merchants will be offering a limited supply of the canine look-a-like for sale. He will also be available for purchase at the Ramsey House Visitors Center, 221 King St.

WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP with ACVA and The City of Alexandria on the holiday shopping promotion are local commercial business organizations, including the King Street Metro Enterprise Team, the Potomac West Business Association and the Alexandria Hotel Association.

In addition to the shopping promotion program, a retail and residential decorating contest will be initiated, professional holiday entertainers will circulate throughout the City to create a memorable holiday experience, and Alexandria hotels have created more than 20 themed weekend packages, according to Laura Overstreet, vice president, ACVA Communications.

For a complete list of participating merchants, holiday events, and the hotel theme packages, and to access ACVA's interactive holiday shopping map and events calendar, visit www.FunSide.com. Complete holiday information and printed copies of the map can also be obtained at the Ramsey House Visitors Center or by calling 703-838-5005.

SHOPS IN OLD TOWN are already bringing out the holiday goodies. At Wilfred Rogers, 320 King St., last year's most popular item is back for an encore. The six piece marching bear band known as "Santa's Marching Band" has reappeared for 2004 at its 2003 price of $159.95.

This furry bunch plays and marches to "Jingle Bells" and "Deck The Halls." It's a definite show stopper in any household. Last year they sold out early, so don't hesitate.

"For those that are really into the Lord of The Rings series, we have a whole set of pewter goblets and cordial glasses," said Stanley E. Rudy, owner. The goblets are in the form of various characters portrayed in the tales and sell for $110 each. Cordials go for $44.95 each.

Another eye catcher is the musical carousel which plays a total of 30 songs — 15 regular and 15 holiday selections. This an item that can be on display year round. It is priced at $125.

For the chess aficionado, there are two sets specifically tailored to football fans and the pet lovers. The football set retails at $265, while the one featuring dogs and cats can be acquired for $185.

Shoppers seeking a fiber optic display other than the traditional tree need look no farther. Wilfred Rogers has an alpine village with winding roads and chalets that constantly change color for $85. It has a myriad of decorative possibilities.

Those who wish to make a holiday purchase that is a dual gift should definitely stop by House in The Country, 107 N. Fairfax St., or The Christmas Attic, 125 S. Union St. There they will find a new offering by holiday decorations creator Radko geared to helping various charities.

Each ornament is created as a meaningful yet festive symbol of the charity it is intended to benefit. There are ornaments for Alzheimer, cancer, AIDS, and pet societies to mention only a few. They range in price from $35 to $45, each with a percentage going to that particular charity the ornament symbolizes.

THIS BEING RADKO'S 20TH year of creating holiday ornaments and display pieces, there are a number of anniversary offerings. One of those is a large musical cookie jar in the form of a snowman entitled "Snowy Sweet" at $130.

For pre-schoolers and kindergarten set there is Why Not, 200 King St. Two of their biggest sellers are "Cut & Play Pizza," a wooden pizza set at $20 and "Band in A Box" at $33. The latter, recommended by Parents Magazine, is designed for children 18 months and up, according to Sarah Rolph, manager.

As for children's books, "One of my favorites is `The Gruffalo' by Julia Donaldson. I've read it to two year olds as well as children seven and eight. They all really enjoy it," Rolph said. It is priced at $16.99.

In addition to these items, Why Not has a wide array of children's clothing for a variety of ages as well as a myriad of other toys and accessories. Clothes are on the street level, while most toys are upstairs.

The Discovery Channel Store, 118 King St., has something for "children" of all ages and gender. Two of last year's big sellers are back and improved, according to store management. EVO 21 Edge Hovercraft operates on land or water and sells for $80.

The Vectron Ultimate remote controlled flying saucer is now radio controlled for longer flight and more maneuverability. It goes for $39.95

For adults there are the Shiatsu Massage Cushion at $149.95 and the Aroma Mist light at $39.95. The former fits any chair and can even be used in a vehicle with an adapter. However, the store does not sell the adapter.

"Aroma Mist" enables the owner to add the scent of their choice by adding aroma oils to the vaporizer. It also serves as a humidifier for a limited area, according to its literature. Using regular tap water the light constantly changes color when it is in use.

THOSE LOOKING FOR the perfect keepsake or gift representing Alexandria need only contact ACVA. They have come up with three symbols of this colonial-seaport city.

New this year is a picturesque snow globe filled with a miniature Alexandria set featuring historic homesites under a snowy facade. It sells for $29.95 and can be found at the Ramsey House Visitors Center.

Next on every shoppers "must have" list is the third annual, original historic Alexandria holiday ornament. This year the painted scene depicts a snowy Alexandria streetscape by designer Diane Gray. It is priced at $12 and is also available at The Ramsey House.

Thirdly, there's, "Alex." Available at any of the retailers participating in the "Find Alex" promotion. He comes in two sizes, priced at $14 and $28 respectively.

Any shopper's complete list should be able to be fulfilled by the merchants throughout Old Town and Del Ray. They encompass the gamut from the free trade shop of Ten Thousand Villages to Kingsbury Chocolates to Ann Welsh Salon to Lords and Ladies of Del Ray.

But, the real holiday gift for the shopper is avoiding mall madness, both inside and outside, in the parking space derby. Holiday shopping in Alexandria is a gift in itself.