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Twenty-nine retailers will participate in downtown's biggest Passport to the Holidays event yet as efforts swell to build support for local business.

A retail campaign designed to entice local shopping has been adapted this year for COVID-19 restrictions and takes place as retailers adjust to further limitations from growing virus numbers across the state.

The fifth annual Passport to the Holidays happens Saturday with more participants than ever.

Spearheaded by retailers and announced by the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation, the event offers incentives to consumers for visiting downtown stores.

Participants pick up a “passport” they have stamped or signed at each store visited. Those who receive five or more stamps are entered into a drawing to win gift certificates at downtown businesses worth $100 apiece.

Based on the number of stores participating, 17 winners are likely to come from the campaign that runs 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Ben Leitch and Mary Lee of 35th&Butter, Julie Batson of Trove Home & Vintage Goods and Kelly Bader of Main Street Furniture led the coordination, including with the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health on producing a safe event.

The kickoff to the holiday shopping season features 29 participating retailers, up from last year’s high of 16.

The spike in participation, the foundation said, is likely due to support from federal coronavirus funds that eliminated buy-in costs for retailers that supports advertising expenses, the purchase of gift certificates for prizes and the procurement of face masks and hand sanitizer, which will be provided to participants.

A change this year will also be the expansion of passport pickup locations. Shoppers can get passports at the corner of Palouse and Main streets or at Third Avenue and Main.

The hope with two locations is to spread out consumers in the no-contact and socially distanced pickup process.

Store capacities will be closely monitored to ensure requirements of 25% occupancy are maintained.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at or 509-526-8321.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.