Don't expect to be able to move freely through Lulu Burgess or many other Bay Street businesses Friday night.
Shoppers and local residents decked in holiday flair are expected by the thousands in downtown Beaufort on Friday night for the city's annual A Night on the Town event.
The event, organized by Main Street Beaufort, USA, is in its 27th year and begins a weekend of holiday activities including the "Light up the Night" boat parade tonight and the traditional holiday parade Sunday morning. Friday night's event is from 6 to 9 p.m.
Initially conceived as a one-night, invitation-only event for downtown merchants to show their appreciation to longtime patrons, A Night on the Town has morphed in recent years into a giant street party, complete with performances by local choirs, dance clubs and the Parris Island Marine Corps Band.
As it has for years, Friday night's event will culminate with city and Main Street officials flipping the lights on the city's Christmas tree on Freedom Mall near Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
Many downtown retailers say A Night on the Town is a boon to their businesses, which often are crammed with customers for the duration of the three-hour event.
"It's a packed house in here," said Nan Sutton, owner of Lulu Burgess. "It can get pretty crazy. ... I do a pretty good business that night. What happens more often is that someone sees something in the store they like and comes back over the weekend to buy it."
Sutton said the event has become one of the most anticipated of the year for Bay Street businesses and residents alike.
"You see all of the locals and people you know in their Santa hats and their tacky Christmas sweaters," she said. "It's just a special time of year."
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBGPatrick.