PALM SPRINGS -

Luciano Ramirez is dusting off Old St. Nick five months early for a good reason: Palm Springs is celebrating Christmas in July.

"Let's see what we can do to help the city," said Ramirez, who co-owns Latino Books Y Mas. "It's great. We want to help the city."

The four-day event which begins Thursday will raise money for the endangered Festival of Lights parade. The annual parade was almost cancelled this year due to the city's budget constraints.

Judy Sailors, owner of Yogurt On Tap, is one of about six shopkeepers who created the fundraiser. "A lot of my customers will come in and say 'I like the Festival of Lights parade!' Just give me money to raise money towards it."

More than thirty businesses have joined the grassroots effort by selling raffle tickets and giving a portion of their sales.

George Kessinger of Azul Tapas Lounge pledged to raise $1500. But, he's met that goal already. "My regular customers want this in the worst way because we've already booked half the patio for that day," he said.

While shopkeepers are busy spreading holiday cheer, the city is busy trying to find someone to run the festival. Three people applied for the job. The city has picked one, but an official announcement will not be made until next week because contracts are in negotiations still.

It costs about $60,0000 to hold the festival. The "Christmas in July" participants hope to raise $10,000. And if the parade does proceed as usual, it will mean big bucks. The parade attracts as many as 80,000 spectators.

"We're looking out, and they're looking in," said Ramirez. "It's definitely going to help us with the thousands of people on the street."

The parade is scheduled for December 4.

For a complete list of businesses and restaurants participating in "Christmas in July," go to www.christmasinjulyps.com