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May 19 will be a remarkable day in Ketchikan. Seven cruise ships are expected to bring 13,226 passengers to the First City, beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m. That's more than 2,000 above the highest cruise passenger day a year ago.

Margaret Mae Bolton, 83, died April 15, 2017, in Ketchikan.
Courtney Marie Marshall, 36, died April 11, 2017, in Seattle.
Marcario Rado, 58, died April 10, 2017, in Ketchikan.

It’s no surprise that today officially starts the Christmas shopping season. The surprise, especially to those who have lived here back in more difficult shopping times, might be the bounty of local options.

Though many of us do some shopping online these days, making a list and checking it against local prices and availability can be instructive. Oftentimes, exactly the item we seek is indeed available in Ketchikan. Sometimes — honest! — the item is less expensive here. Sometimes, it’s a little more expensive. The “little” extra is offset by the ability to see and touch the purchase we are considering, rather than simply look at a picture. And for those of us who favor instant gratification, we can have it right away. No waiting for shipping in the busiest shipping season. And no shipping cost added to that seemingly lower price. (What, you’re in Alaska? Add 20 percent just for the heck of it.)

Sometimes, in the matter of holiday shopping, we don’t know precisely what we want; we know only that we would like to buy a present for someone special.

Here, Ketchikan excels.

There are a variety of shops stretching from north to south on our road — downtown, West End and beyond. In between those retail establishments are homes and studios housing the artists who help to make our island such a hotbed of creativity. These artisans and craftspeople exhibit their work at a variety of venues during this season, including this weekend’s Winter Arts Faire and the upcoming Winter Art Walk, as well as holiday bazaars townwide.

“Shop local” is a phrase that has picked up a lot of traction nationwide. In Ketchikan, that phrase has never amounted to better advice than now. Start today; you will be tickled at what’s offered right here in Ketchikan.