16 December will see the start of the second annual run of night trading in the Athlone CBD in a growing attempt to promote and boost local business.
Informal and formal businesses will join hands in a bid to bring more feet back to the former hub of activity in the heart of Athlone.
Ismail Manuel, chairperson of the Athlone Informal Traders' Association (Aita), says the CBD will become a melting pot of products and people.
"The invitation for participation is extended to all informal traders and formal businesses. It will definitely serve as a boost for business in the CBD, which has been suffering because of the popularity of shopping malls," Manuel says.
For a fee, which is still being determined, traders will be able to sell everything from "popcorn to coffee mugs" in a bid to restore the trading market to its former glory.
"It is no secret that business isn't what it used to be in the CBD," Ismail says.
Last year's pilot launch of the night trading initiative was not as successful as organisers had hoped.
Ismail says that owing to bad planning, delayed organisation and insufficient advertising, not enough people were aware of the festivities taking place right on their doorstep. However, Ismail remains optimistic that this year's endeavour will exceed their expectations.
"Hopefully things will be more successful as more people will be aware of it. Plans are already being drawn up and hard work is being put into making the event a memorable one and drawing a massive crowd. We hope that instead of people travelling all the way to Cape Town to see the festive lights, they will venture into their own CBD instead."
AITA secretary Jenny Millar says the Christmas lights will be switched on on 16 December and the night trading will continue until 31 December.
She adds that traders will line Lower Klipfontein Road and that Church and Beverly Streets will be closed daily from 18:00.
Head organiser and Athlone ward councillor, Charlotte Tabisher, says this year will see a bigger and better event in the CBD.
"We want to encourage input and participation from everyone in Athlone: pensioners, youth, entrepreneurs and your average man on the street," she says.
She says security will be supplied by the Metro Police, paramedics will be on stand-by and controlled parking will be available as streets in the CBD will be closed off to allow free movement to visitors. The Christmas lights will also brighten up the area and add to the festive feel of the event and minstrels, professional singers, drum majorettes, brass bands and dancers will entertain the crowds.
Job creation will also receive a boost as people will be employed to clean the CBD, guard cars and man portable toilets.
Ali Dhansay, business owner and member of the board of the Athlone Central Improvement District (ATHCID), says they fully support the brainchild of the informal traders.
"I definitely think this will be good for both informal and formal trading. Any good exposure for business in the CBD will only benefit the position of the CBD as the heart of Athlone."
Dhansay says that last year, businesses did not operate after hours owing to weak planning, but he foresees this year's project to be a resounding success.
"This initiative is much better planned and once it gets off the ground I am sure many more bodies will be brought back to the CBD. In my personal capacity as a business owner, they have my total support."
Tabisher emphasises that no profit will be made by the organisers as the levy paid by traders will be used to pay the cleaners and security guards.
"Entrepreneurs will be able to trade successfully as we bring a small Cape Town to Athlone," Tabisher says. "The main idea is to take Athlone back to the way it was 50 years ago: when safety and interaction were alive and people could run to the shop at 22:00 and not be worried about getting mugged. Athlone has to be brought to life again."