By Patricia Middleton

Staff Writer

Those looking to take advantage of summer's longer days to shop later in the evening will get a chance to visit downtown McPherson stores during McPherson Main Street's Shop the Night Away.

"The primary purpose of this is a sidewalk sale," said Ann Engel, executive director of McPherson Main Street. "There's shopping indoors and outdoors."

Shop the Night Away will be held from 5 to 10 p.m. on July 14 and businesses will be open with special deals and sidewalk sales.

This year's theme is "Paradise on the Plaza," and Delish and the American Legion plan to offer tropical-themed menu items and drinks.

Customers can enter their names into a drawing for prizes including $25 gift certificates, four tickets to Worlds of Fund and Oceans of Fun and a $500 shopping spree. The drawing will take place at 9 p.m. at the Plaza.

Free activities for children include the YMCA's hosting of day care for those age zero to five from 6 to 8 p.m. Children in kindergarten through fifth grade can play in a bounce house or gymnasium or make an arts and crafts project. Children can also swim, though those seven years old or younger must be accompanied by an adult.

"We usually try to have some kind of activity to get families out and about," Engel said. "This gives parents an opportunity to shop with or without their kids."

Another bounce house sponsored by the McPherson Fire Department will be open on the Plaza from 6 to 8 p.m., with free face painting available as well.

Clayworks, Bookshelf, Village Geek and Simply Good Overstocks will host games for customers to participate in.

Tonya Schafer, owner of The Well and Artshirt Gear for Sport, said Shop the Night Away is one of the most profitable nights of the year for her businesses.

"For Artshirt, in the past, I've had a very good response," Schafer said. "I'll move a lot of product and I don't mess around with marking stuff down."

At Artshirt alone, there will be deeply discounted racks of items and $1 clearance items on the sidewalk.

"There will be a lot of good sales," Schafer said. "The Well for Shop the Night Away will be closed, but we'll be selling hot dogs, chips, water, Gatorade and soda and introduce our homemade chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches."

The ice cream sandwiches will be made of two homemade chocolate chip cookies with a disc of vanilla ice cream place in between them. The confection is then dipped halfway into chocolate. The treat will make its debut at Shop the Night Away and then be available as a regular menu item at The Well.

"I'll have a few more ice cream novelties also, but that's what we're really trying to kick off," Schafer said.

The Plaza will have food choices as well, with the Boy Scouts selling walking tacos, the McPherson Dog Park offering drinks and ice cream for sale to benefit the Ulster Project.

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.