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By Laura McHale Holland
Banners and bows, carolers and cider, and Santa and his reindeer are once again set to work their holiday magic on the neighborhood this December.
Something new on 24th Street this year is the Noel Stroll, scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 10, from 5 to 9 p.m.
"We'll have Victorian carolers going up and down the street, special in-store promotions, and festive libations. And all of the stores will be staying open until 9 p.m.," says Teresa Gay, owner of Lacoterie.com, who is the event's organizer for the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association. "The holidays can be so stressful, we want to help neighbors save a little money and time and enjoy the Noel Stroll. You know how someone always changes the Noe Street sign to Noel Street at this time of year? We're thinking of unofficially changing our name to Noel Valley for the month of December," she says with a laugh.
Here's a sampling of what you can expect should you visit "Downtown" Noe Valley that evening: Noe Valley Bakery will greet you with a cup of spiced apple cider. Qoio will offer you the store's first-ever discount: 15 percent off handcrafted jewelry. The bead store Forbeadin' will host a raffle for a free beading workshop. Global Exchange will serve holiday cookies and reduce prices by 10 percent on its entire stock. Businesses such as Castro Computers and Lacoterie.com and others (with or without storefronts) will sponsor a raffle where you can win gifts and services. And Ambiance clothing store will serve sweets and drinks, offer its own 10 percent discount, and launch a raffle for a $200 gift certificate.
Keeping the holiday spirit rolling, the Friends of Noe Valley will hold its second annual Caroling Stroll on Friday, Dec. 23. "We'll all meet at 6:30 p.m. at the southeast corner of 24th and Castro streets. Bring candles, flashlights, kids, and dogs," says Friends President Richard May. "We'll sing and stroll along 24th Street from Castro to Church and end up with cocoa and cookies."
To add to the festive air, the Merchants Association will be hanging red and silver ribbons on the trees along 24th Street from Church to Castro streets, as well as the traditional red-and-green banners on the light poles.
Old St. Nick will be making not one, but two appearances in the neighborhood. On Saturday, Dec. 10, Santa will visit the Bank of America (corner of 24th and Castro streets) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. On Saturday, Dec. 17, he'll reappear with his sidekick, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, at Zephyr Realty (4040 24th Street) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Santa's helpers at Zephyr will be giving tykes free Polaroid pictures of their moment on Santa's knee.
Of course, 24th Street isn't just for locals. Friends and family, and tourists from as far away as Bernal Heights, are welcome to visit the neighborhood, too. To accommodate those who can't walk or take public transportation to Noe Valley, James Lick Middle School, at Noe and 25th streets, is opening its parking lot on Dec. 3, 10, 17, and 24. The $10 per day parking fee will be used entirely for school programs.