SKOWHEGAN — The holiday shopping season gets under way the day after Thanksgiving with Black Friday sales at all the big-box stores around the country, but shoppers will have a chance to support local businesses the following day with Small Business Saturday.

Main Street Skowhegan has invited businesses to participate in the third annual Passport to Savings Program as part of its “shop small, shop local” promotion.

“We have recruited more businesses to participate. We have 44 this year,” said Main Street Executive Director Kristina Cannon. “Last year we had 37, and the year before we had 32.”

Each passport is a booklet with pages from each participating business as part of “a bag of swag” given out to participating businesses in Skowhegan.

The idea is for each shopper to visit a local business to pick up a passport, then shop around at participating businesses and get the shopper’s name on a raffle ticket. The more tickets a shopper has, the better chance he or she has to win the two prizes offered this year — a $100 gift certificate and a $50 certificate for any local business.

Russakoff Jewelers is the program’s primary sponsor in Skowhegan this year, which has allowed Main Street to do some radio advertising and some Face Book-boosted posts to help get the word out, Cannon said.

Small Business Saturday is a registered trademark of American Express corporation.

“The bag of swag is all kinds of fun things they can put up around to decorate,” Cannon said Monday at the Dog Not Gone visibility products outlet store on Dane Avenue, where Teddy, a little rescue dog, was sporting a fine “shop small” neckerchief. “We’re trying to get it out earlier this year so people can decorate and kind of entice people to come in. We’ve partnered with Bangor Savings (Bank) to do that.”

Cannon said Small Business Saturday is a way to inject money into the local economy and to launch the holiday season and the Main Street-sponsored Holiday Stroll on Dec. 1 and 2.

“The goal of Small Business Saturday is to help bring business into our locally owned merchants,” she said. “We really want Skowhegan to be known for this Passport to Savings Program and so we want people from all over to come to Skowhegan on Small Business Saturday and purchase locally.”

Cannon said other communities participate in Small Business Saturday, but not many do the passport promotion, making Skowhegan more a shopping destination.

Julie Swain, who with her husband, Bill, owns Dog Not Gone visibility products, said they will be doing a “buy one, get one for half off” as part of their offering for the shop-local day.

“We participated in Small Business Saturday a couple of years ago, but we had just opened,” she said. “Now that we are a little more established and working with Main Street, we hope to do really well this year.”

Donna Russakoff said she and her husband, Andy, are helping to sponsor this year’s event to boost the local economy because local money spent on Small Business Saturday is money that stays in the community.

“Shopping locally with your independently owned businesses in the area is critical to the revitalization of our downtown,” Russakoff said. “The whole downtown is working together with the passport program to make sure we raise awareness of the importance of Small Business Saturday and helping to support Main Street in getting the word out.

“It’s important because when you shop locally, all of your hard-earned money stays right within your own community. It doesn’t get sent out to corporate offices thousands of miles away. Local business owners are your neighbors, your friends.”

She said Bangor Savings also is lending a hand in the promotion, distributing the bags of the “swag” that Cannon mentioned.

Cannon said that when she took over at Main Street in 2015, she promised to expand service beyond the downtown business district to include businesses off the main drag.

“We’re a small town, so there’s no reason why we can’t include other businesses outside of downtown in the things that we do,” she said. “We think we can help any business in the town of Skowhegan.”

Cannon said last year during Small Business Saturday there were 816 purchases made, more than twice the 383 purchases in 2015. Two local businesses had their best sales day ever last year.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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