Darien gears up for holiday stroll
Lighting an entire town for Christmas can be an expensive endeavor, but thanks to some ingenuity and the generosity of local businesses, the town will shine brightly this holiday season.
As part of an effort to help generate money for the town's lighting fund, the Darien Chamber of Commerce and local businesses have teamed up to organize a holiday stroll.
The stroll will take place on Dec. 9, 10 and 11 and a number of participating businesses are donating gifts for a raffle.
Chamber of Commerce President Carol Wilder-Tamme said the idea was born out of desire to be able to light up the town while recognizing the impact a declining economy has had on the town.
"The Darien Chamber of Commerce has been funding the holiday lights since before I took the job," Wilder-Tamme said. "There is this ongoing difficulty with trying to fund the lights."
In years past the chamber relied on the generosity of donors but since 2008, donations have sharply declined, Wilder-Tamme said.
Putting up lights around town costs about $12,000 each year in addition to the $6,000 it costs to take them down again, Wilder-Tamme said.
The town has donated about $7,000 to the lighting fund in the past, she added.
"Suzanne England had an idea for doing a stroll," Wilder-Tamme said. "The idea was to take a receipt that you receive for donating and take it to stores that are participating to get it stamped. Hopefully it will get people to come into a store that they might not otherwise."
Although this isn't the first time the town has done a holiday stroll, Wilder-Tamme said it is the first time it has been done to help raise money for the lighting fund.
Beadz Boutique owner Suzanne England and her step-daughter, Amanda, suggested the idea of a holiday stroll.
"My step-daughter lives on Block Island and they have been doing a holiday stroll for 22 years now," England said. "I had a conversation with her and she suggested doing the same thing in Darien.
England said the event's appeal is the ability to help local businesses and to help the town.
"It's a nice time of the year to stroll around town and visit all the retailers," England said. "I hope this becomes an annual thing and is even bigger next year.
Even though the goal of 10 participating businesses was surpassed, England said she could have seen 40 businesses get involved if there was more time.
"Last year we only had about 40 donors and that wasn't nearly enough to cover the cost," Jensen said. "We're also hoping that some businesses will be able to get some new customers as people travel from store to store."
Jensen said she was very excited that businesses would be able to participate in such an event and was even more so when the goal of 10 participants was surpassed.
"We wanted to get 10 businesses to participate and we ended up with 20," Jensen said. "That's great for the first time and we're hoping that we can increase traffic in town and even bring in people from other towns."
"One of the concerns we had was the expense to the stores," Wilder-Tamme said. "All the stores are paying for their own advertising as well as donating a gift."
However, the expense wasn't an issue because Wilder-Tamme said there was a great deal of enthusiasm.
"We're hoping to get a good portion of the money for the lighting fund so that we can keep Darien lit up and pretty," Wilder-Tamme said.
This years's participating stores are Beadz Boutique, Bling, Charles Michael Gallery, Chunky Pam's Sweet Shoppe, Darien School of Dance/YMCA, Darien Toy Box, Frederic's & Company, Gardener's Center, Geary Gallery-Accent Picture Framing, Gofer, Helen Ainson, The Little Gym, Megan Dey Photography, Nielsen's, Palmer's Market, Seasons Too, Wild Birds Unlimited, Williams & Warren, WishList and Whole Foods.
In order to be eligible for one of the prizes, a $10 donation is required and then the donor must get their donation form stamped by eight businesses and then return the form to either Beadz Boutique, Helen Ainson, Chunky Pam's Sweet Shoppe or The Darien Toy Box by 5 p.m. on Dec. 11. The winners will be chosen during a reception at Beadz Boutique at 6 p.m. that evening.