Merry Leon 2016 Flyer 2 sided BIt’s blistering hot outside and although you might be hunting for the nearest swimming pool, a Downtown Lakeland event has returned to remind shoppers that the six-month countdown to Christmas has begun.

It’s time for Merry Leon – that’s noel spelled backward – and an opportunity to get a jumpstart on those holiday shopping lists.

This fourth annual event will be held Saturday, June 25, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Activities include a visit from a vacationing Santa, refreshments, specials, shop demonstrations, and an opportunity to win gift certificates, which spend like cash at numerous participating shops and restaurants throughout Downtown Lakeland.

Shoppers can purchase a Shop Hop map for $5, or bring $5 worth of canned tuna, chicken, stew, or peanut butter, which will be donated to ElderPoint Ministries of Greater Lakeland, Merry Leon’s charity for 2016. ElderPoint assists senior citizens throughout Polk County with food, transportation and other services.

Shoppers will get their maps stamped as they visit each business. Completed maps are due at 6 p.m. June 25 and can be turned in at the last shop visited. Drawings will be held to award gift certificates that range from $50 to $150. Winners will be announced by July 1. Gift certificates can be used at any of the participating stores.



Participating businesses, along with some of their activities are (we’ll update this as we gather more information):

Ann Rye, owner of Traditions Unlimited, devised the Merry LEON idea based on inspiration from WFLA AM radio and its morning show host Jack Harris. Years ago, Harris began celebrating the halfway mark to Christmas on June 25 with holiday music.

June retail sales can be slow in downtown Lakeland because the area’s winter residents have left, school is out, and lots of residents go out of town for vacation.

“We began hosting the Merry Leon event as a creative way to bring people downtown to shop,” Rye says.