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Valentine’s Day has become a polarizing holiday. On one end, it is viewed as a celebration of love and companionship. On the other end, it is dismissed as commercial and unnecessary.

But for downtown Carlisle, the upcoming holiday served as a chance to bring community members and business owners together Saturday through a pair of self-tour style events: the Sweetheart Stroll and the Discover Your Heart in Carlisle scavenger hunt.

The Sweetheart Stroll, which began at and was founded by Georgie Lou’s Retro Candy on West High Street, gave participants the chance to discover and explore various downtown businesses and restaurants by way of a “map of hearts” distributed to each pair or party.

“One of the ideas behind the Sweetheart Stroll is that, right now, this is an extremely slow time in the downtown area,” said Georgie Lou’s Owner Stephanie Patterson Gilbert. “For us, because it is cold and people usually don’t like to walk around like this, it can really hurt sales. So this is just a way to get people down here, let them know we are still here and give back by offering some samples. It’s almost like a winter open house in a way.”

Discover Your Heart, on the other hand, began and ended at American Artisan Gallery on Hanover Street and followed a scavenger hunt approach. Participants collected stamps at each stop in order to be entered to win one of six gift bags containing gift certificates to downtown businesses.

“What we are trying to do is get people to come out and participate and patronize the downtown at an odd time of the year instead of going to the mall,” said American Artisan Gallery Owner Pam Fleck. “We are trying to get people to go completely around both High and Hanover Streets. Some people get into a habit of going to one block, but they never know what’s on the next block. This way, we are getting people to go to all the blocks that contain active businesses.”

Most participating businesses offered specials and deals to visitors.

For some businesses, the events served as a chance to offer something different in terms of Valentine’s Day gift shopping.

“We think of (Valentine’s Day) as an opportunity for people to come out and shop,” Fleck said. “(Coming to the Gallery) is a chance for people to see other options beside the standard stuff — the flowers and chocolate.”

“For me as a business owner, I love showing people around and finding scents and what they mean; it sparks moods and memories,” said No Common Scents Owner Tami Shaffer. “So for me, (Valentine’s Day) is a fun time to be in business.”

Other businesses saw the events as an important opportunity to regain business lost in the winter doldrums by showing off a unique approach to old Valentine favorites.

“Obviously our main focus is candy,” Gilbert said. “We try to do some different things; we make our own fudge, truffles, marshmallows, and barks, and we do a lot of special stuff for the holidays. For us, (Valentine’s Day) is an important mid-winter thing for us coming off of Christmas; business pretty much dries up because people are sweeted-out from Christmas and people will do New Year’s resolutions to be healthier. January is very slow.”

But in the end, both events re-enforced a longstanding sense of togetherness among residents and downtown businesses alike.

“Downtown is just fantastic,” said North Hanover Grille Owner Chris Petsinis. “I’ve been here for about 15 years and it has really come a long way. It is a pretty tight-knit community.”

“I think (Valentine’s Day) doesn’t just have to be about romantic love; it can be love of your family (or) your appreciation for your friends,” said Regina Robinson, who participated in the Sweetheart Stroll with her sister. “I just think it’s nice to be able to spread some of that cheer.”

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