CHICAGO, Nov. 28 -- With the typical American expected to spend $474 on presents this Christmas, thousands of people couldn't wait to converge on the historic State Street shopping district. People jammed the festive street of upscale and discount stores today, with some coming from surrounding states in order to experience a taste of old-fashioned downtown shopping. Denise Ramsell of Muscatine, Iowa, who was part of a bus tour that brought midwesterners to Chicago, said, 'I just don't get the same atmosphere if I shop at home.' Several hundred people were gathered around display windows at the MarshallField's and Carson, Pirie Scott flagship stores to admire traditional Christmas decorations. Others were going from store to store looking for offbeat gift items that would not readily be in stock at their hometown stores. 'Suburban malls just don't offer the variety,' said Joann Jordan of Matteson, a Chicago suburb. Besides the decorations, the stores went out of their way to create a holiday atmosphere. Some were giving away cider and cookies, while Carsons had a tuxedoed musical trio playing live Christmas carols, giving a traditional feel to the ultimate holiday pop tune -- Jingle Bell Rock. Mark Weiss, who plays mandolin, says, 'It's fun to play for the people while they shop. We can provide that relaxing moment in between purchases.' People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals used the State Street holiday crowds to attract attention for one of their pet causes -- no more fur coats. About 40 animal rights activists were largely ignored by shoppers, although one person trying to show support for the group was hauled off by police after he resisted efforts to get his bicycle off State Street.
Other less seemly aspects of the urban experience included a couple selling framed prints of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck from the back of a van parked on Wabash Avenue in front of Marshall Field's. But Sylvia Chase, a sales clerk at Carsons, says that should not overshadow the more glamourous purchases. 'All these people trying to find the perfect gift for their loved ones, that's the real purpose of the holiday.' ---
Copyright 1997 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---