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Westminster seeks to attract people to downtown

WESTMINSTER — Holiday sales, shopping contests and a New Year’s Eve celebration are among the ways city officials are hoping to drive more people into downtown Westminster.

Lori Graham, chairwoman of the Downtown Westminster Main Street Program, has been helping the city by creating new contests and planning future events. She said she wants more people to recognize the great businesses Main Street has to offer.

“So many people give so many great things,” Graham said. “It’s a great place to have a business.”

The city has been meeting with business owners and shoppers and listening to suggestions on how to make downtown more vibrant, Mayor Kevin Utz said. The city has used some of the suggestions, such as putting white lights on the trees downtown and creating new activities, he said.

He said the city wants to make each month a special month by having live music, activities and more festive events. Sprucing up Main Street could also attract new businesses to set up shop downtown, he said.

“We want to bring people downtown on a constant basis and make the city vibrant again,” Utz said. “Our end goal is to make sure people know we have a downtown.”

On Friday, the city will host Midnight Madness: The Holiday Edition, which will be similar to Midnight Madness held during Westminster Fallfest, Graham said. There will be live music near Rafael’s Restaurant and on Locust Lane, stores will stay open until midnight and there will be special sales, she said.

The city is also planning to host a similar event one Friday each month beginning in April that would run through November, she said. It would be a night where businesses stay open a little later, but not until midnight, she said. The city is still brainstorming titles for the event, Graham said.

The city is also inviting shoppers to play “Westminster Shopopoly” for the chance to win gift certificates and prizes totaling more than $1,000, Graham said.

A game board can be obtained from participating stores or on the city’s website at Participating stores can also be found on the website.

Shopopoly will begin at 5 p.m. Nov. 18 during Midnight Madness. The game ends at 2 p.m. Nov. 26. The entry boxes will be collected by Downtown Westminster Main Street Program personnel. Winners will be drawn and notified Nov. 28.

Westminster also has big plans for New Year’s Eve.

The city will close off the street between Md. 27 and John Street and Bond Street for about an hour to ring in 2012 on Main Street, Graham said. She’s hoping it will be a destination for families and children and others who want to celebrate.

“We want to count the New Year in and keep people downtown and from going out of the city,” Graham said.

Graham said she’d like to have a DJ outside playing music, restaurants will stay open until 2 a.m. and some restaurants might offer a breakfast menu.

David Johansson, owner of Johansson’s Dining House, said the New Year’s Eve celebration is going to be a new experience and could grow into something very prosperous.

“When you have a slower economy, it makes people much more aggressive and basically people come up with great ideas,” Johansson said. “Some of the ideas the city has been promoting are excellent ideas. I think they will benefit the community and downtown Westminster.”

Near midnight, Graham plans to have everyone in the area come outside and count down to the New Year. Someone will also drop a city or Baltimore Ravens-related object as the clock strikes midnight, Graham said. The city is still trying to figure out an item to drop, she said.

“The more traffic, the more people will want to be downtown,” Graham said. “We want to generate interest and get people to come out.”