MARIETTA - Christmas lights, holiday window displays and festive Christmas decorations of all kinds were the focus of the first Merry-Etta holiday planning meeting on Wednesday at the Marietta Main Street office at 132 Putnam St.
Nearly 20 people attended the meeting, most a mix of merchants and residents.
According to Jean G. Farmer, Marietta Main Street director, Merry-Etta might be a short-term name until one is decided on by the group.
Farmer said the idea behind Merry-Etta came from Ken Kupsche, owner of the Cook's Shop on Front Street.
"Ken mentioned how cool the Peoples Bank window displays were," Farmer said. "He said he wanted to see Marietta become a holiday destination like Cambridge."
Kupsche mentioned that Marietta needs to vamp up the holiday spirit.
"What we're looking at is something totally different that Marietta can do," he said. "The original concept is to draw more tourism and visits to downtown and doing (decorating) en masse, getting the whole town behind it, not just one or two businesses."
Kupsche said everyone in the community should get involved.
"I have an idea and other people have other ideas," he said. "It's bringing them together."
Kupsche said the main goal was to make Marietta a tourist destination at Christmas time.
"We want to generate a holiday attraction that will bring people downtown," he said, adding that the holiday displays would last from November until sometime after Christmas.
Farmer said the idea behind the Merry-Etta meeting was to coordinate.
"We want to coordinate it all and make Marietta's Christmas very merry," she said.
One holiday idea included a 5K Santa Run.
"You'd have to cross the finish line in hat, beard and Santa garb," said attendee Christina McMahon.
Yet another idea was getting all the businesses downtown to decorate their store fronts, whether it was just with decorations or live people acting out a scene.
Another attendee, Harmar business owner Chuck Swaney, said he wanted to see music downtown.
"Music is one of the easiest and least expensive things," he said. "We have our new basilica, and (Handel's) 'Messiah' is free, but it's only one time in the season. If we could talk them into three times a season, or we have the show choir. They could do caroling. That could be a difference; real music, live music. We have so much talent in this town. You could call it 'The Sounds of Christmas.'"
Other suggestions included bringing lights and decorations to Muskingum Park and the Harmar Railroad Bridge.
Ron Feathers, Washington County Commission president, said nostalgia should be used to draw people in.
"I think we do have to look at what intrigues people," he said. "(Marietta was) here first. Look at the nostalgia...We've got it here...it would draw people to it."
Feathers added that the nostalgic view could be mixed with some modern to keep an interesting look.
Still other suggestions included incorporating multiple religions, showing Santa through differing cultures, house decorating contests, business decorating contests and even working to bring a gingerbread house contest back to Marietta.
Though there are many suggestions for making Marietta a tourist destination around the holidays, like Cambridge, there has to be a combination of volunteers and money to make it work.
Farmer said there must be both merchants and area businesses buying in, as well as the community to accomplish the goal.
People have to "be willing to stand behind their ideas," she said. "It takes a passion."