Remember back when your parents — maybe even you — would do all the Christmas shopping at the downtown stores of your hometown — stores that would line Main Street, or whatever the highway street happened to be called in your town?

If you can, you’re probably well over 40. But in a day a few decades back, every town in America with a population over 3,000 had enough of a retail base to essentially allow all of one’s Christmas shopping to be done in your hometown stores. Everytown, USA, had the all-encompassing department store stocking just about everything, a music store to buy albums, a jewelry store or two, variety stores galore, a hardware store to get Dad some tools, and a theater where you could drop off the kids while you got all that shopping done.

That isn’t the case now. In this big box, dot-com, hashtag humongous era, where Black Thursday/Friday and Cyber Monday compete in the great Christmas Budget Swallow-Up, the small-town merchant is often left out of consideration.

Frankly, most of those small towns have lost the capacity to maintain a retail base that can come anywhere near filling a Christmas list. It becomes a vicious cycle. Elements of the local retail economy can’t make it, close up, and thus make it harder for the other businesses to survive.

Madras is struggling to fight that destiny off. We’ve lost several key retailers in the past several years, and haven’t replaced them. Too often it becomes sport in small towns to bash their business community as being limited. But the best way we change that is to shop the merchants that are here. If they’re successful, others will follow.

The Madras Pioneer is doing what we can to help local merchants during this important holiday shopping season, while also enhancing that hometown Christmas spirit this December, with our holiday shopping promotion, Hometown Christmas. (See Section B.)

The idea is to inspire people to get out and experience their hometown merchants. It’s a throwback, in a sense, to those days when we all bought nearly all of our Christmas presents at our local stores, when local Christmas shoppers filled the streets of their town in December.

Sure, it’s tough to do all of your shopping in your small hometown these days. And no doubt, it’s fun to make it a day and hit Bend, their malls, the big box stores, and experience the holiday spirit that little city provides. The presents your kids are begging for may not be available in town. That’s all understandable.

But challenge yourself this Christmas season. See what you can get from your local merchants. Save gas and time, and invest what you spend into your community by filling your shopping list at local stores.

We all know it, but it’s important to be reminded: it truly is these people, these local businessmen and women, who support your schools, your churches, your youth sports. They provide jobs. The effort of each of these businesses collectively reflects the health of our overall community. You literally enrich the health of your town, and its future, by shopping local.

Please, don’t hear “Shop Local” as an overused ad jingle. Shop local means something great and powerful, especially for a small town. Don’t drive a couple hours roundtrip just to save a buck or two.

Along with promoting holiday shopping in the Madras area, Hometown Christmas is also a way for the Pioneer to show our appreciation of our customers, our advertisers. We’re giving away $500 in spending scrip, good at the participating businesses. If you bring a game coupon into a business, you’ll be eligible to win either our grand prize of $300 in scrip, or one of two $100 prizes.

So, improve your odds, hit all 16 businesses in the game. Get out and experience your hometown this December.