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Vogt's Notes: Remember your hometown merchants this holiday season

I'm more of a touchy-feely type shopper. My favorite kind of Christmas shopping happens on the streets of Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Crosslake and Pine River. Illustration

We made it through Black Friday, or the new-age version of Black Friday where sales begin long before the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Hopefully we shopped on Small Business Saturday and patronized our local merchants.

And let's face it, many likely took advantage of Cyber Monday and did a bit of online shopping from home or (gasp!) work.

I did none of the above. We were too busy over the holiday weekend to even think about venturing into stores with thoughts of Christmas gifts. At this point, I'm not sure when I will squeeze in my Christmas shopping. However, I do know for certain that I will visit our local, small-town stores every chance I get in December.

I have credit cards to show that I do patronize our area big-box retailers. They all have a zero balance for now (except my Target card - can anyone maintain a zero-balance Target card?), but I'm sure I'll rack up charges on a few of them.

I'm not an online shopper. I tried it one year and wasn't impressed. I'm more of a touchy-feely type shopper.

My favorite kind of Christmas shopping happens on the streets of Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Crosslake and Pine River. I detest holiday shopping when it happens under the gun. But when I have the time, I love going shop to shop in our area towns just to see what I can see. I love finding that perfect gift for friends and family just by browsing til that certain item catches my eye.

I always find something at a reasonable price at our local stores. And it's so fun and rewarding.

So this holiday season, I urge you to go to one of our area communities, park your car and walk store to store. It should be quite pleasant with the temperatures we've been experiencing.

Our small-town stores even offer deals. This Saturday, Dec. 2, Parade of Lights Week starts in Pine River. As part of Shop Local Day, you can pick up a passport, get it stamped by participating Pine River area businesses and be eligible to win a $200 grand prize at the end of the day.

This leads up to Parade of Lights Day on Saturday, Dec. 9, with all kinds of fun activities going on all day in Pine River.

In Nisswa, the following three Saturdays have themes. Dec. 2 is Sweet Treat Saturday. Stroll the streets of downtown Nisswa and enjoy sweet treats at participating locations.

Dec. 9 features a Snowman Scavenger Hunt. Get a scavenger hunt form at the Nisswa Chamber, locate the snowmen around town and turn in your form when completed to be registered for a $200 Visa gift card provided by Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union.

Dec. 16 is Secret Santa Saturday, where Santa's elves will stroll through Nisswa throughout the day giving away gift cards.

Don't forget to buy a Nisswa City of Lights button for $5 and save at participating locations through Dec. 31. You'll easily recoup your $5 many times over with all the deals.

Crosslake retailers also offer deals through Dec. 31. During Crosslake's Holly Days, the Crosslake app features businesses offering discounts and activities. App users can visit participating businesses, check in on the app's social feed and cash in on the Holly Days special.

Download the Crosslake app on your mobile device. Check in and snap a picture to be eligible for deals. Hashtag your comment with #LakesProud and you're in to win weekly Lakes Proud merchandise as well.

Pequot Lakes gets in on the action Saturday, Dec. 9, with its annual Santa's Bobbin' Into Town event featuring activities all day. What a perfect day to stroll through the stores.

Be sure to visit merchants in our little hometowns any time. I guarantee you'll have a fun holiday shopping season - even if you're a non-shopper, like me - if you take my advice. Shop local.