Around the holidays, you hear a lot about being thankful – for family, for friends, for simply making it through another in a series of pretty awful years.
Emily Liner is thankful for a pole.
Friday afternoon, she and her dad were wrapping that pole – which happens to stand in a somewhat awkward position in her bookstore, Friendly City Books – in bright, shiny silver. Later that evening, it would be the centerpiece in a Festivus celebration.
“When we figured out that we were going to be open on Dec. 23, we knew we had to do something for Festivus,” Liner told The Dispatch Friday afternoon. “My dad is a huge ‘Seinfeld’ fan. You could just about show him a still image from an episode and he could tell you which one it was from.”
Festivus is a holiday observed on Dec. 23 as a less-intense, lower-pressure alternative to its more famous cousin, observed two days later. Observations include a dinner, putting up an unadorned aluminum Festivus pole, the “airing of grievances” and “feats of strength.” Although the holiday’s existence preceded the show, being prominently featured on an episode of “Seinfeld” considerably raised its profile.
The somewhat inconvenient pole seemed a natural focal point, and, if it’s not aluminum, it is certainly eye-catching once Liner and her father, Dale Waltman, finish wrapping it.
You could even say the pole itself performed a feat of strength.
On Sept. 17, 2021, a car plowed through the front of the bookstore. The pole is what stopped the car before it could get deeper inside.
“We used to complain about that pole being kind of in the middle of the room,” Liner said. “We think this is a fitting tribute.”
Liner said she planned to hold an airing of grievances at 5 p.m. but had no plans for feats of strength.
“We’re not insured for that,” she said.
Forbidden feats aside, Liner said that the pre-Festivus shopping season had been busy.
“Things are going very well,” she said. “We’re on pace to beat last year. People are happy to find unique and personal gifts.”
She said Vishwesh Bhatt’s book “I Am From Here” had sold out, and the new John Grisham novel had been selling briskly. In the wake of his death, former Mississippi State University football coach Mike Leach’s books had also sold out.
Lily Wills and her mom, Suzanne Lange, were in the bookstore Friday afternoon finishing up some shopping. Lange is visiting from Colorado.
“We’re doing some last-minute shopping, and I’m showing my mom around Downtown,” Wills said. “(COVID-19) ruined our Christmas plans, so we’re shopping out of necessity.”
Down the street at Park Place Boutique, Maddie Burns said business had been brisk Friday. She said men’s apparel had been especially popular with last-minute shoppers.
“We have been wrapping, wrapping, wrapping,” she said.
The Lowndes County Co-Op was also buzzing with late-in-the-game shoppers.
“Tremendous,” said manager Jeff Hays. “This week has been tremendous.”
Hays said winter clothing and cold weather items, boots, livestock feed and heat lamps have been strong sellers.
“It’s been through the roof,” he said.
Starkville shoppers Jacob Butler and Makayla Nichols were braving the cold Friday afternoon at Triangle Crossing Shopping Center on Highway 12 in Starkville. They were looking for gifts for Nichols’ aunt and Butler’s brothers.
“We’re just tying up loose ends,” Nichols said. “I bought most of my stuff online on Amazon and stuff.”
Caleb Hill also was in Starkville hitting the stores for a few last-minute needs.
“I … was looking at perfumes for my girlfriend,” he said. “That was the main thing. I also … (got) a Dirty Santa gift for the family.”
Reporter Alex Raines contributed to this report.
Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.
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