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Lawrenceville's Joy of Cookies

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The promise of free cookies is a powerful motivator - which the good folk of Lawrenceville realized a decade ago, when they began an annual cookie tour. Now, it's that time again: This year's Joy of Cookies cookie tour begins Thu., Dec. 4, and runs through Sun., Dec. 7.

The concept of a cookie tour surfaced in 1997, when a few Lawrenceville business owners were trying to come up with a way to get folks to come to the neighborhood.

"How could we get people to go from shop to shop?" recalls Mary Coleman, owner of the Gallery on 43rd Street, who took over managing the cookie tour three years ago. "It's gotten bigger and better every year."

Eighteen different businesses will be on the tour, each with a different kind of cookie for the greedy hordes. The idea is that visitors will come for the cookies - and stay for the art, fancy soap, flowers, bowling or yoga. Still others may come back for such amenities another time.

This year's cookies - 40 dozen at each tour stop - are all from the shopkeepers' own recipes, a change from previous years. For day-trippers who like to bake, recipes cards will also be available.

Samplers can expect to find favorites such as chocolate chip and snickerdoodles, as well as more intriguing treats such as salty oat cookies, lemon tea cookies and a few different takes on the ginger cookie.

On Sat., Dec. 6, getting overstuffed on baked goods won't be a hindrance to getting around to all the stops: There will be a trolley rolling up and down the Butler Street loop.

One of its stops will be at the "Cookie Mall," a bake sale held at the Teamsters Temple at 4701 Butler St., from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the proceeds benefit community groups.

If you get cookied out, stop at one of the eight "Take a Break" venues for coffee, a beer or ... ahem ... cupcakes, which cookie-sampling can work up a powerful hunger for.

The tour takes place 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thu., Dec. 4, and Fri., Dec. 5; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat., Dec. 6; and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sun., Dec. 7. But don't sleep on this one:

"Most of us make it till Sunday," says Coleman. "We'll keep our fingers crossed."

For more information and to download a tour map for advance strategizing, visit www.lawrencevillecorp.com/events.

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