Despite the drizzly weather, it was last year around this time that the first Lower Mills Holiday Stroll surprised organizers by attracting over 300 people, many of whom later returned to patronize shops they had peeked in on.
Tonightâ€™s more elaborate second venture promises to attract even bigger crowds with its freebies, art displays, a book-signing for the new paperback about the Baker Chocolate Company, even free trolley service to shuttle shoppers too weary to â€œstrollâ€ across the bridge between Dorchester and Milton.
Though primarily a business booster co-sponsored by the Lower Mills Civic Association and Lower Mill Merchants Association, the Stroll also might also be a more art-filled event than local participation in the October Dorchester Open Studios. This section of Dot Avenue will look more festive than ever with greenery and ribbons provided by Cedar Grove Gardens.
The evening is the brainchild of Lynda Watson, owner of Streamline Antiques, a boutique specializing in Art Deco, 50â€™s kitsch, and 60â€™s funk. Her inspiration came not from posh holiday strolls like the ones on Nantucket and Beacon Hill, but from something closer to home.
â€œWe stole the idea from the Jamaica Plain First Thursdays once-a-month art shows throughout the Center Street business district. They have their big one coming up on Thurs., Dec. 3,â€ she noted.
Like the JP merchants, Lower Mills business owners enthusiastically pitch in to encourage shoppers to get to know the full range of stores on both sides of the Neponset.
Tonight,h from 5:30 to 8 p.m., more than thirty Lower Mills businesses will stay open late, offering samples, demonstrations, special discounts, and/or displaying work from local artists.
Each shop will participate in a unique way. At Streamline, Watson will be selling one-of-a-kind Christmas stockings pieced together by Dot artist Jacqueline Harris from vintage fabric, linen, lace, old buttons, and jewelry from Watsonâ€™s emporium. The Ice Creamsmith will again be serving sample dishes of whatever flavor visitors chooseâ€”including November specials: Pumpkin, Peppermint, and Eggnog.
Several sites will be featuring music, ranging from classical to a brass band. Aidanâ€™s Barber Shop is looking for â€“ what else? â€“ a barbershop quartet.
Probably the best place to start is St. Gregoryâ€™s, where strollers can park for free at the CVS lot across the street at 2235 Dot Avenue and where the trolley starts.
In the church auditorium, families can get maps for the evening while they enjoy the sounds of a steel band, sample food from local eateries like Ocean East and Capâ€™s Pizza, receive a free tote from Shawâ€™s, and get free raffle tickets. Kids can get their pictures taken with Santa and participate in contests and games organized by the library.
Affordable works created by a dozen local artists will be on display both at St. Gregâ€™s and in the lobby of the Walter Baker Artistsâ€™ Lofts (1231 Adams St.)
Also at the Baker Lofts, prolific local historian and former Dot resident Anthony Mitchell Sammarco will be signing his just released â€œThe Baker Chocolate Company: A Sweet History.â€ Though well-illustrated, the work has much more text than his contributions spotlighting Dorchester and other greater Boston neighborhoods to the â€œImages of Americaâ€ vintage-photos-with-captions series.
Over on the Milton side, the Captain Robert Bennet Forbes House Museum will be hosting an open house, and Esprit Du Vin will be offering a wine and cheese tasting at Milton Hill Sport & Spa.
Hot chocolate will be available along the stroll route. For more information, please call 617-980-1191.