It's begun. The bells have been jingled. The man in the big red suit has arrived.
Thanksgiving and Black Friday are over and Small Business Saturday, a national campaign, closed the Denton Community Market's season and opened the Christmas season for all.
"My name is Earl," said Santa Claus at the Denton Community Market on Saturday. "I do Christmas all year long."
Strange. Apparently, the man posing to be Old Saint Nicholas was actually from Plano, retired and named Earl Amox. And furthermore, he was partaking in the #ShopSmallSaturday festivities at the market by posing for pictures with children, families and dogs, while armed with a smile and free candy canes.
He stressed that his appearance was meant to bring joy and cheer to the good people of Denton, and that he does not do this commercially. This was for charity, not for money.
"I'm not a 'mall Santa,'" Amox said, dressed in full Santa gear. "I just do it for the love of it and [to] make kids smile."
A tip jar sat next to Amox. At the close of the community market's last day, the jar would be filled with currency and donated back to the nonprofit market.
On this special day, which is the first Denton Community Market date to be visited by a Mr. Claus, extended hours kept vendors open until 4 p.m. — the latest hours to date, according to Vicki Oppenheim, president of the market board.
"I think that was a wise move," Oppenheim said of the extended hours. "I think we'll do that every year."
Music was performed live all day and "Jingle Bells" was played at least once, solidifying a change in the times. In accordance with the holiday cheer, the market advertised on posters and flyers that they would be hosting the Evergreen Holiday Indoor Market on Dec. 14 at the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center.
A few blocks over on the downtown Square, several businesses were seeing lots of faces and making lots of sales. Two coffee shops, Jupiter House and West Oak Coffee Bar, seemed to have lines for almost the entirety of the afternoon.
Not every business was making record sales, though, even with the buzz of the national shopping campaign in the air.
"To me, it feels like an average Saturday," said Cody Garcia, manager of McBride Music & Pawn on the Square.
Others felt differently.
Emma Manley, a worker at Atomic Candy on the Square, said that while Saturdays are normally "on and off" with customers at the candy shop, this weekend they were piling in and out of the store.
Jackie Reed, an associate and employee at First People's Jewelers on the Square, a small business in Denton since 1974, emphasized that Saturday showed evidence of increased business and foot traffic, likely because of Small Business Saturday, and definitely because of the holiday season.
She said shoppers, many of whom seemed to be coming from outside of Denton, walked out of the store with newly purchased rings, necklaces, bracelets and, "because you've got to buy for guys too," watches.
On a "normal Saturday," Reed said her store would log maybe a couple thousand dollars in sales. On this day, they made sales "way over that."
There was heavy foot traffic on the Square and surrounding downtown areas throughout the day, and many people were ready to spend some money.
"This is not your typical Saturday," Reed said.
KYLE MARTIN can be reached at email@example.com and via Twitter at @Kyle_Martin35.