Downtown Improvement Board Trying to Revitalize downtown Panama City

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Many shoppers are by-passing downtown, which used to be the center of Panama City commerce until the mall and other large retailers moved in.

However, the downtown improvement board is trying to re-energize the area.

Holiday shopping means long lines, crowded stores and parking lots, and rain checks for that sold-out item you've got to have.

However, it doesn't have to be that way.

At least that's the message downtown Panama City store owners are pushing.

It’s a message some people have already heard.

Downtown Shopper Marlene Ryll says, "We prefer a nice setting, we prefer not to have a crowd, and we prefer things that look pretty and antiquely."

Matthew Diamond Downtown Shopper says, "I just don't like big shops, smaller shops are better."

"It's not crowded like the malls may be right now, really crowded,” says Downtown Shopper Amanda Thurston. “It's real nice and the sun is out and you get to walk around outside."

Downtown Shopper Csilla Voncsiky says,"I wouldn't be caught dead at a mall today; way too much people, no parking, just no fun; stress!"

Downtown Improvement Board members say they want to attract more people to downtown Panama City. They're sponsoring events like Home for the Holidays to do just that.

The fourth annual event kicks off Friday night.

There will be local actors wandering the downtown streets in period clothing, carolers and other entertainment.

There’s even a horse drawn carriage ride.

Dutch Sanger of the Downtown Improvement Board says, "When you come down to the Friday Fest, or the Salute to Freedom, or all the other events that we do, you can just come down and visit these shops and you're going to find all kinds of stuff that you haven't seen in a long time."

Gail McCrary of Olde Towne Antique Mall says, "You have the opportunity to have lunch at one of the nice restaurants, buy a lovely dress down the street, an antique here, a piece of jewelry. It's all here on Harrison Avenue, and you get to experience the history."

Downtown business owners are extending their store hours until 8:00PM on Friday nights to make shopping even more convenient.

The carriage rides run from 5:00 until 8:00PM each Friday evening.

Those rides begin at Books by the Sea near the corner of 6th and Harrison, and goes down to the Marina and back.

The cost is $5 dollars for adults, and kids under the age of three ride for free.