It’s blistering hot outside and although you might be daydreaming about sipping frozen drinks on the beach, 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 fifth annual event will be held Tuesday, June 20, 5-8 p.m.

Activities include sales, specials, refreshments, 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 passport for $5, or bring $5 worth of products, which will be donated to The Villages of Noah’s Landing, a community of young adults with special needs

Shoppers will get their passports stamped as they visit each business. Completed passports are due at 8 p.m. on June 20 and can be turned in at the last shop visited. Drawings will be held to award gift certificates valued at $150 (1); $100 (1); $50 (1); and $25 (6). Winners will be announced on June 23. Gift certificates can be used at any of the participating stores.

Participating businesses are:


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.

This post will be updated as businesses finalize details of activities and other offers they will have during the event.