It’s not quite Thanksgiving yet, but any question about whether the holidays are upon us were answered by Santa’s downtown visit on Thursday and Friday evening’s hike through the Holiday Nights ’N Lights display.

Tempting as it is to re-hash complaints about the holidays creeping in earlier and earlier, such carping would probably have as much effect as King Canute’s order to the tide to stop rising. There’s a difference in complaining about things you can change and things you can’t. And if Charlie Brown’s argument against commercialization 54 years ago didn’t alter much, we have no illusions about our ability to do so.

Truth be told, the weather probably helps this year. It’s mid-November, and most of us have had to shovel the sidewalk a couple times already. Regardless of what the calendar says, it feels like the holidays.

The early start offers residents an advantage. Take the time to think through what you might want to get family and friends, and take a good look at whether there are local businesses you might get those things from.

Local shopping is critically important for communities. No, you might not be able to find absolutely everything on your list through local stores and vendors. We’d bet you can make a fair dent in it, though.

Those local stores are the ones that support the community. They’re putting their names behind Little League teams, food drives, community initiatives and dozens of other efforts that make people’s hometowns home. But they can only support the community if the community supports them. It’s a symbiotic relationship, one that requires a literal buy-in from both sides.

That need is underscored when you have things like the downtown streetscape disrupting the normal traffic at businesses. The hope had been to get the street reopened before the winter kicked in. It’s still possible, but it’s going to be a very close call.

Don’t get us wrong. National vendors and companies have their place. Southeast Iowa is not an island, and shouldn’t attempt to become one. But, for the most part, there’s a greater value to the community in the effect of local dollars spent with local businesses than with national corporations.

All it takes in most cases is a little bit of time to tell whether local stores will fit your bill. We’re not trying to guilt-trip people into making different decisions, just asking that you invest those few minutes to see whether local businesses fit the bill before you take the easy route and buy online or out of town. If you wind up needing to buy elsewhere, that’s fine. Just give the local businesses a fair chance.

Besides, there’s always a value in getting out here in town, to knowing a little more about the businesses and people behind them. Those face-to-face meetings might just pay off down the road.

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