The holiday season is upon us. Black Friday is still a week away, but already, many stores are announcing special deals. And as we do every year, the Tahlequah Daily Press is teaming up with a number of area businesses, institutions and individuals for our annual "Shop Tahlequah" campaign.

Although it means resorting to a worn-out superlative, it's not an exaggeration to say this holiday shopping season will be the most important for our community in years – if not in history. The pandemic has done considerable damage to the bottom line for many area businesses. Some, unfortunately, have closed. And with another surge of COVID-19, the news could be hire for those still struggling to stay afloat.

It is imperative that Cherokee County residents shop at local businesses before they turn to other resources to cross off everyone on their gift lists. Refusal to do so is short-sighted, because funneling the dollars into other cities damages Tahlequah's ability to move forward. At the same time, it is critical that we do our shopping in the safest manner possible – and there are several ways to do that.

First of all, when you're going out, wear a mask. After all, the city ordinance has been extended, and those who refuse to do so are technically violating the law. While the ordinance may or may not be enforced, depending on the circumstances, folks who care about their community and the people in it will comply unless there's legitimate health reason why they can't do so. Refusal to wear a mask inside businesses puts the employees, owners and employees in untenable situations. These anti-mask crusaders are proving they don't care much about their fellow human beings, thereby proving they are little better than the refuse moldering in the dumpster behind the building.

It's no secret that the Cherokee Nation has stepped forward with a keen leadership role during this pandemic. Tribal officials – especially Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and first lady January Hoskin – are serious about masking up and social distancing. They'd like to see more people utilizing carry-out and online ordering services, or curbside or delivery to minimize exposure. This is a good idea, and most area merchants are on board.

In the coming days, readers will notice "Shop Tahlequah" banners in print and online. Most of the participating businesses and entities have alternate plans for customers who would rather not shop in person. Check their websites or Facebook pages, or make a quick phone call, to find out how our local businesses can help you make the holidays brighter for you and your family. And while we are doing so, we'll make Christmas merrier for the merchants and leaders who are the backbone of our community.

The 2020 season may not seem as bright as in the past, but with a little ingenuity and consideration for others, we've got this. Let's do it, Tahlequah!

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