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Lights, street performers and longer hours will be among the featured draws on Elmwood Avenue this holiday shopping season.

The business association Forever Elmwood, with more than 40 Elmwood Avenue businesses, has announced a series of marketing efforts to cultivate interest in the shops along the Elmwood Strip.

Every Friday, this week through Dec. 18, participating businesses will remain open at least until 10 p.m. Many of the merchants will offer complimentary refreshments and free gift-wrapping.

In addition, some merchants will employ street performers, including musicians and carol singers. Santa Claus will pay visit at selected times between 5 and 10 p.m. Fridays through Dec. 18.

Pet owners may have photos of their pets taken with Santa at Elmwood Pet Supplies, 706 Elmwood Ave.

Participating businesses will be accepting donations of non-perishable food items and new unwrapped toys as part of a drive conducted by the Buffalo Police Department.

The gifts will be distributed by the Salvation Army to needy families and individuals during the holiday season.

Of course, Elmwood Avenue will feature dozens of lighted trees throughout the retail district, as well as holiday decorations displayed in storefronts.

Chris Schoepflin, a volunteer with Forever Elmwood, said special attention will be given to snow removal and overall cleanliness along Elmwood Avenue.

"Our goal is to make Elmwood Avenue a more convenient and unique shopping opportunity for families in the area and from outside the area," Schoepflin said.

"This is not the first year we've (made such a collective effort), but it's the first year we've had such a high concentration of merchants participating," he added.

Schoepflin said Elmwood Avenue provides an alternative holiday shopping experience that offers consumers fewer mass-marketed and more unique items than can be found in area shopping malls.

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