Black Friday gets lots of attention when it comes to the start of the holiday shopping season, but Small Business Saturday the following day (this year Nov. 26) is a much bigger deal in the communities around here.
That’s because it’s mostly small businesses that comprise our communities and they rely on local support. And each community in this area has a distinct twist on the day and their kickoff to the holiday season.
The holidays in Waconia actually kick off this Friday with the annual community tree lighting in City Square Park. The event offers the opportunity to sip hot cocoa by the fire served by the Women of Waconia (WOW) while caroling with holiday characters. Santa Claus will arrive just in time to light up the park at 6:30 p.m. In the spirit of community giving, tree lighting participants are asked to bring a new, unopened toy for the Waconia Toy Drive organized by WOW.
Saturday is Homespun Holiday in Waconia, a time to celebrate shopping with deals all around town. There is also fun for the kids – a candy cane hunt back in City Square Park at 10:30 a.m. and photos with Santa Claus at the fire station from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Take your own photos and bring canned or dry food items for the Waconia Food Shelf.
The reasons to shop local are many, according to local business leaders: less travel time, less crowds, fewer parking hassles, unique items, personalized service, and often better deals than the “big box stores.” Plus, it helps sustain a vibrant community.
“Businesses typically get a boost in revenue during the holiday season; however, sales tend to slow way down during the winter months of January, February, and March” said Christine Fenner, Waconia Chamber of Commerce president. “Supporting local during the holidays and all year long is important to Waconia. When shopping local, about 68 cents of every dollar spent at a small business stays in the community. Our small shops and restaurants give our town uniqueness and charm, and local support by our residents and visitors help to keep these businesses a vital part of our community.”
Norwood Young America
Wilkommen Memorial Park is the focus on Saturday, Nov. 26, 5-7 p.m., for Norwood Young America’s Holiday Extravaganza. That event is sponsored by the NYA Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with Small Business Saturday to celebrate and thank the local community who support area businesses.
Event organizers are hoping residents and visitors shop local, then stick around for hot cocoa, holiday music, a fire pit, kids’ activities, and visits and photo opportunities with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Eric Dietel at Home Solutions True Value calls the Holiday Extravaganza a “great idea” that generates more customers stopping in the store for a stamp that shoppers can redeem in a drawing for “Chamber bucks.” And he says that in the years since Small Business Saturday started there has been growing awareness of shopping small and local.
Some of the advantages, Dietel said, “It makes shopping super-easy and close-by, offers personalized service with someone who can answer your questions, and you are doing business with someone local who gives back to the local community.”
This is the first Christmas in NYA for Alli B’s Coffee Shop and Boutique which opened in July, and proprietor Alice Bunn said she is “excited and ready” for the Holiday Extravaganza. The coffee shop side will feature expanded food offerings like soup, breadsticks and Christmas cookies, while the boutique has a range of gifts and stocking stuffers for all ages, she says – items like clothing, decorations, books and more.
There is also this note for shoppers on Alli B’s Facebook page:
“Buy local, buy handmade, buy from people you know, buy from the self-employed. Remember, the big stores don’t do a little jig when they make a sale. Make someone jig this year.”
Other area communities
Watertown does its tree lighting a week later on Saturday, Dec. 3, but the emphasis is the same. Shop local, then join the community at City Center Park for the annual holiday tree lighting, the official kickoff to the holiday season in Watertown.
The event starts at 4:30 p.m. with hot chocolate and Christmas music. Santa Claus will make an appearance on his Watertown Fire Department sleigh just before the annual holiday greeting and the lighting of the Watertown Christmas tree at 5 p.m.
Meanwhile Cologne’s annual event is closer to the holiday with Christmas in Cologne celebrated Dec. 10.
Look for more details on those events coming soon.