New Richmond will soon have one more event to look forward to every year with the addition of the Hometown Holidays to the New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce's calendar.
"Hometown Holidays is the official title for the six or seven things that are happening at the same time," said Membership Coordinator and Events Planner Michelle Scanlan. "It will hopefully always be the first Thursday after Thanksgiving every year so people can plan on it being on that day. We like that date because it is early enough that we might still get good weather. But really, for our downtown businesses and restaurants to have that whole month of December for sales is the main idea behind it. We want people to get downtown to see those businesses and then support them."
This year's event will be held on Thursday, Nov. 30, starting at 6 p.m. with the holiday lights parade and will be followed by a tree lighting ceremony in Glover Park at 6:45 p.m. and fireworks over Mill Pond at 7 p.m.
"The whole thing started with the idea for an illuminated parade, which was approved by our board a year ago," Scanlan said. "There hasn't been a holiday parade in New Richmond for about seven or eight years. And even then, it was a daytime parade that was held on Arch Avenue on a Saturday. So it had a lot of things going against it that were reasons it didn't pull big crowds. It was also later in December and that last time it was supposed to be held, it got canceled because of cold weather."
This year's tree lighting honors go to current Citizen of the Year Rachel Sauvola, along with Santa Claus. The trees being lit are three large ones on the corner of Knowles Avenue and East First Street.
"We want to make sure that we say this over and over again: nobody can be dressed as Santa that night. There are no Santas, except for the actual Santa who is lighting the tree and riding in on a firetruck. We are doing that to avoid confusing the little kids with too many Santas to dispel the magic of it," Scanlan said.
In addition to having Sauvola light the trees, the Saliny family will have the honor of being the first Hometown Holidays light parade grand marshals.
"We are just so excited about this event and the interest is off the charts," said Chamber Executive Director Rob Kreibich. "People are begging to sponsor the parade, the fireworks and the tree lighting. It is a great time of year, I think, to add an event. And we put a lot of careful consideration into adding events because we have so many already. But we think that there's an appetite for this, and the time of year works really well. And anything we can do to boost traffic downtown is great, since that is probably the primary focus here."
The parade route starts at Fifth Street and heads north on Knowles Avenue to Glover Park. Knowles Avenue along the parade route will be closed starting at 5:30 on the day of the parade. The hope, according to Scanlan, is to get the 5 p.m. traffic through the intersections along the parade route to avoid inconveniencing too many people.
"Thanks to the backing of the area businesses and the community at large, the New Richmond Chamber has enjoyed great success in recent years in terms of membership growth, attendance, and sponsorships. This new event is our way of showing our appreciation for all the support the chamber has received---and an event we hope will boost the local economy heading into the holiday season," Scanlan said.
Along with the tree lighting, Jodi Mealy will be signing Christmas carols in the park between the end of the parade and the lighting, as well as after the lighting.
"We are not restarting a tradition. This is something we are trying to start brand new for the city. We can also have the event earlier in the evening because it gets dark pretty early this time of year," Scanlan said. "We've been working closely with the City of New Richmond, because it is a pretty big deal to have four parades in one town a year. But we get a lot of support from the local police, fire and ambulance in making the accommodations that they need to do in order for us to have the parades safely. So it has been a good partnership with the City."
According to Scanlan, the parade is limited to 30 units/floats. As of Monday, Oct. 23, the Chamber had around 20 units entered in the parade and were looking for another 10 to fill out the parade lineup.
"We want this whole thing to be free for everyone. So, it is free to have a parade float. And everything that is happening on the parade night is free for your family to come to and enjoy," Scanlan said. "In order to do that, we sold a few sponsorships for the events, but they sold out the first day. That just goes to show how excited people are about the event. And we are happy to be able to do it."
Those who come out for the parade will also be treated to s'mores thanks to a series of five or six s'mores stations that will be positioned up and down Knowles Avenue during and following the parade. A bonfire will also be lit at Glover Park for people.
"We are hoping that people will hear about these events and then build around them. We do know that SF Insurance will hold a window decorating contest with prizes, with the Kiwanis judging the windows," Scanlan said. "That is its own separate thing, but that is what we want to happen. We are hoping everyone realizes that we will have a captive audience and that they can use that to promote their business."
Hometown Holidays will get its official kickoff on a Small Business Saturday, Nov. 25, which will also feature the Saliny family's Ugly Sweater Run in Mary Park. It is free to be part of the run, but you must bring a donation for Toys for Tots.
"We are promoting that run and using it as a kickoff for that event, while also having the Saliny family be our grand marshals for the parade. They and all their friends and family, along with all their ugly sweaters, will be the first float," Scanlan said.
In addition to everything else going on, 500 Hometown Holiday buttons — which were designed by St. Mary School student Hattie Harrold — will be available at participating businesses as well as at the Chamber office. Those who pick up a button and visit participating Chamber businesses throughout New Richmond will be eligible for prizes.
For more information on the Hometown Holidays events and activities, visit newrichmondchamber.com or the Chamber's Facebook page.