As Christmas approaches, Denison Main Street is hoping its Tour of Trees will entice residents and visitors to explore the city’s downtown area and do a little last-minute holiday shopping among its many small businesses.

The program welcomed students of the Denison Independent School District and St. Luke’s Parish Day School to come up with a theme for their city-provided Christmas trees and decorate them accordingly. The tour featured eight trees this year, all of which were stationed at a host of locations, including three food establishments, two art galleries and a historical site.

“It’s a great way for people to visit the city, go around and look at the trees, get some of their holiday shopping, eat at a new restaurant and really just get an idea of what Downtown Denison has to offer,” Main Street coordinator Melanie Truxal said.

Both Truxal and Main Street Director Donna Dow said they did not know when the Tour of Trees began, but Truxal said one thing was certain: the trees are always festive and one is crowned the winner.

“It is a friendly competition, so we have voting tickets at the different locations where the trees are set up,” Truxal said. “Voting is one ticket per day, so in theory, you could go every day. And it’s the public that decides who the winner is.”

Putting the competition aside, Truxal explained the Tour of Trees is also meant to foster creativity among the city’s youngest residents and allow them to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

“We invite children to create different art, decorations and ornaments for their tree,” Truxal said. “Each tree is going to be unique and express the children in a different way. And I’ve actually seen some of the children in the stores when they come in and look at their own trees all decorated. I know that they’re very excited to see it.”

Pop Around the Corner owner Derrick Roberts said he was happy to be a part of this year’s tour and proud to display Hyde Park Elementary School’s tree. Derrick said just about everybody who came into his popcorn and sweets shop cast a ballot for the tree, with one notable and comical exception.

“Everybody loves it and everybody has voted for it,” Roberts said. “There was only one little girl that went to another elementary school who refused to vote for the tree because it wasn’t hers. But all the customers that I have and the people that come in to see it, they’re excited to know that the kids had a big part in decorating it.”

Roberts said the Tour of Trees also sent some much-appreciated foot traffic his way and helped to spread the word about his shop’s presence in downtown Denison.

“Normally, when people are coming to look at the tree, I’d say 90 percent of them end up buying something out of the store,” he said. “And I’ve heard many of them say, ‘I didn’t even know y’all were here.’”

Roberts said he hoped to participate in the tour again some day, but this year, he was simply happy to be a part of the tradition.

“It’s pretty cool that we get to be a part of Denison’s heritage,” Roberts said.

For a complete list of participating schools and viewing locations, visit Denison Main Street’s Facebook page. The trees will remain at their locations and open for voting until the competition ends on Dec. 31.