In case the blaring Christmas music in every store, massive displays on every corner and ads on every channel telling you to buy, buy, buy weren't a big enough hint, it's the holiday shopping season.
The shops are filled today with brave/crazy souls facing the bargain-hunting frenzy as part of Black Friday. But this year, with an uncertain economic future set to ring in 2009 and beyond, instead of buying fast, let's buy smart.
And in this season of sharing while scrimping, it doesn't get much smarter than buying local.
So here are some humbly submitted ways to spread the spirit of the season while spreading the wealth in our community.
Buy unique, locally crafted gifts at the annual modern craft bazaar Hand Born from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday in downtown Modesto.
Discover one-of-a-kind clothing, scarves, purses, jewelry and a lot more created by some 50 local artisans. Browse to the sounds of local musicians and DJs. Admission is free.
For more information, call 529-3282 or visit handborn.com.
Surprise them with a song a locally produced song, that is.
Several area artists have put out new CDs this year. Buying these indie offerings not only helps an aspiring (and often starving) artist sing for his/her supper, it also exposes you to some great new music.
A sampling of the musicians who released new material this year include Rachel Renae, Fat Skeleton, Moon Trent, Peaceable Jones, Not 4 Nothin, Radio Friendly, Anthem and Jay Smith.
They all have MySpace pages with CD information, and some are available through iTunes. Check them out, along with many others.
Seriously, Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake don't need any more of your cash.
Give the gift that keeps on giving.
Instead of signing your dad, sister, co-worker or postal carrier up for a Bacon of the Month Club (seriously, it exists), give a season's subscription or year's membership to one of the many area arts groups.
Theater fans would enjoy subscriptions to Prospect Theater Project, Sierra Repertory Theatre, Stage 3 Theatre in Sonora or Playhouse Merced, while music lovers would take to the Modesto Community Concert Association, Turlock Concert Association, Modesto Symphony Orchestra or Gallo Center for the Arts, among others.
There are also options for opera aficionados (Townsend Opera Players), dance nuts (Central West Ballet) and movie buffs (Modesto Film Society, State Theatre).
All the sites have Web sites with information on subscriptions or gift certificates.
And we've only just scratched the surface. Give gift certificates to locally owned restaurants. Give art from area artists from local galleries including The Chartreuse Muse, Anderson Gallery, Mistlin Gallery and others. Give a dinner ride on the Sierra Railroad.
And if all else fails, make the gift yourself. That's about as local as you can get and cheap, to boot.
Elsewhere around the Scene:
Make your holidays pop with big-name pop stars at Jingle Ball on Wednesday at Arco Arena.
The Modesto's KHOP 95.1 FM and Sacramento's 107.9 The End-sponsored show will feature Katy Perry, Jesse McCartney, David Archuleta, Shontelle and Boys Like Girls.
Show starts at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $27.25-$37.25. Visit www.khop.com for more information. ...
And finally, dance fans, mark your calendars.
Three touring DJs come to town for Pure209 events at the Fat Cat Music House & Lounge in December.
Dec. 6, catch West Coast DJs Miss Lisa and DJ Diamond. Then on Dec. 19, groove to San Diego DJ Donald Glaude at his special birthday event.
Both shows start at 9:30 p.m. Admission is $10. Call 524-1400.
To get on the guest list for either show for free entry before 10:30 p.m., visit www.pure209.com.