Annual light parade brings in business

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by Dylan Sowle
Williamston Post staff writer

Williamston store owners enjoyed increased business during the annual holiday light parade on Dec. 1, thanks to daylong events and extended shopping hours.

The 16th annual light parade was organized by the Williamston Chamber of Commerce, and focused on getting people into the town and generating interest in local businesses. Events for the gathering started on Nov. 31 and continued through the next day until after the parade.

Holiday activities including gingerbread house decoration, warming stations with hot drinks, and even a carnival, all led up to the parade at 6 p.m. Many local businesses used the opportunity to introduce a new crowd of people to their store.

Dave Porter, owner of the local Fireworks glassblowing studio says that the light parade has been incredibly valuable in drawing in interested customers to his business. Porter has been hosting a “make your own paperweight” session during the festival for the past five years, giving parade-goers a handmade treasure to take home with them.

“It brings people in to participate and it’s usually a family affair,” said Porter. “They’ll do the paperweight and when they see the other things available, they’ll often select a piece for a gift.”

Porter says the parade has been great for introducing his store to people that otherwise might not get the chance to stop by. Tina Brookhouse, owner of a local fitness studio agreed, saying that just being open as a warming center was enough to attract attention.

“We just want to get people into the studio,” said Brookhouse. “We’ve gotten new people to come back for a class after visiting during the parade.”

Even businesses who simply used their space as a venue for other organizations were able to get parade-goers familiar with their store’s location while providing a service to the community. Susan Byrd, owner of Living Arts Dance Studio let Habitat for Humanity use the store for their gingerbread house-building fundraiser.

Visitors to the studio were able to vote on their favorite houses and make donations from 11 a.m- 8 p.m, and Byrd says that the response was wonderful. In this way, businesses like Byrd’s were able to get involved in the parade and benefit the community in a different way.

This strong focus and interest in local business is the intent of the parade, says Barbara Burke, executive director for the chamber of commerce. The parade is hosted in the heart of downtown Williamston, where the majority of stores are located. This gives those visiting the town to explore and visit the shops that are open late for the big event.

“A lot of {the businesses} say it’s their biggest night of the year,” says Burke. “And we’re here to help them.”

The light parade included over forty entries and concluded with the lighting of the town Christmas tree, and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus. The parade is held annually every first of December and continues to grow each year.

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The parade started at the Williamston Community Center, travelling down Grand River and Putnam, and concluding at School Street

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