There’s cheer and laughter as community members trim the trio of Christmas trees on the stage in Brighton’s Memorial Park one recent chilly November evening.
With the frosty branches, sparkling lights and shiny ornaments, the setting will provide a picturesque backdrop when Santa Claus comes to town next month. It’s also giving downtown Brighton a festive feel.
From hosting Old St. Nick, to launching a new shop local incentive to introducing a holiday decorating contest, the Municipality of Brighton, the Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) and others are kicking off the holiday season.
Uniting each of these initiatives is the theme of supporting the Brighton business community as much as possible – whether it’s warming up with a hot chocolate, stopping by to wave to Santa or finding the perfect gifts.
Ben Hagerman, Brighton’s economic development and communications manager, is hopeful a new initiative, made possible through a Bay of Quinte Tourism sponsorship, will kick-start local holiday shopping.
“It’s a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking,” Hagerman said.
Shoppers spend $200 on holiday gifts at Brighton businesses and submit a photo of their receipts that total $200 or more to the municipality and the first 11 people to do so will each receive five free garbage bag tags, which are valued at $4 each. “Basically, you get back 10 per cent (of the $200 spent), which is kind of nice.”
The incentive kicks off this week. “We’d really like it to be gift-oriented,” Hagerman noted. Instead of leaving Brighton or shopping from big retailers online, he’s optimistic that this will entice people to spend their holiday dollars here.
“It’s about using the businesses and services we have locally to complete your Christmas shopping list as best as you can. I’d like to see people go into local restaurants and buy gift cards for people. I’d like to see people utilizing our wonderful boutiques in our downtown core whether it’s ladies’ wear, shoes or books. We’ve also got a great selection of retail up in the industrial park. There’s so much to offer…by shopping right where you live,” Hagerman said.
As the owner of a Brighton-based business, Sheryl Delorme said the experience of shopping local can’t be matched.
“The personalized approach, better customer service, the one-on-one connection that is created is worth its weight in gold,” said Delorme, Special Effects Lifestyle Boutique’s artist, designer and redesign specialist.
“When you get to know the person behind the business, you appreciate their passion, their motivation and desire to create something truly exclusive. The investment far outreaches the product or service that you may have purchased. These solitary businesses also invest back into their community by sponsoring many local initiatives and events -- in the neighbourhood of about 48 per cent is returned back to the very place you call home,” she said.
“This movement of supporting small business creates a certain flavour, a kinship that can only be created by offering your heart and soul to the cause. This is not a get-rich quick scheme or a one-shot deal, it's a commitment to create something real, something lasting for the neighbourhood that you reside in.”
To get residents into the festive spirit, Brighton also launched a holiday decorating contest Nov. 20, which runs through to Dec. 14. Business owners and homeowners are encouraged to decorate their storefronts and homes and share photos of their displays for a chance to win pre-paid VISA gift cards to use at local businesses.
There will be a total of 30 winners – 15 from the urban area and 15 from rural parts of the municipality. The DBIA and the municipality have each donated 15 $100 gift cards intended for use in the downtown core. Upload a photo to the municipality’s website Winners will be chosen through a random draw.
Finally, to engage Brighton’s children in holiday fun, Santa Claus is slated to stop by Memorial Park on Dec. 5 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I think this year, more than ever, Santa in Brighton will bring a sense of normalcy to our younger citizens,” said Sarah Hilwerda, chair of the DBIA.
“Even a wave and wink from the fella in the red suit will do just fine for the time-being. Physical distancing protocols will of course be in place but it’s the best we can do. A lot of folks aren’t in a position to take their kids shopping to the big box stores or the mall this year, so our downtown will provide a safe place to see Santa,” Hilwerda said.
She reminded youngsters to be sure to bring their letters for St. Nick.
Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Northumberland News