It’s Christmastime again — or soon will be — and business owners and community volunteers are readying the downtown to play host to a number of seasonal events.
Downtown Scottsbluff will be all aglow the weekend after Thanksgiving as the annual Parade of Lights officially kicks off holiday celebrations.
On Saturday, Nov. 26, downtown businesses will hold activities for Small Business Saturday. It’s also a great time to grab the Downtown Scottsbluff Association’s Loyalty Card, which shoppers will be able to use throughout the holiday season. Customers can pick up a card at a participating location. Customers will collect stamps at local businesses and those collecting eight or more stamps from different stores will be eligible to enter into a drawing.
The fun will step up a notch with the annual Holiday of Lights on Sunday, Nov. 27.
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The parade will officially start at 6 p.m., but parade organizer Angela Scanlan said the public can join in a special treat as Air Link plans to fly Santa and The Grinch to Bluffs Middle School. The flight is planned to take place at 4 p.m., she said.
“Santa and The Grinch are basically beside themselves (with happiness),” Scanlan said of the planned flight.
Throughout the history of her involvement with the parade, Scanlan said that 30 to 60 floats have traveled down Broadway. Anyone can participate with only one prerequisite — make sure you or your float are decked out.
“We would love to see any and all floats, walking groups and vehicles lit up in some way so they are easy to see,” she said.
For businesses and organizations, it’s a great way to promote yourself, Scanlan said. Local police and fire departments are also among the usual participants, with their flashing lights making them a great fit for the parade.
Santa finishes the parade as part of an annual tradition and this year, he and The Grinch will head straight to The Midwest Theater afterward for free photos with children.
“Santa also tends to have a candy cane for everyone,” Scanlan said.
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Registrations for the parade are being taken by email or social media. Anyone can sign up by reaching out to Scanlan at firstname.lastname@example.org or send her a message via social media. A Facebook page specific to the parade has also been established: www.facebook.com/christmasparadescottsbluff. Though it is not required, it is helpful to indicate your intent to participate, Scanlan said, so organizers can plan some aspects of the route, such as moving horses away from large trucks that may startle them.
Though activities in the 18th Street Plaza won’t be part of this year’s celebration, The Emerald Center, located on 16th Street, will host vendors and other activities for a Christmas market, 5 to 9 p.m. With construction currently underway in the plaza, Scanlan said that the activities at The Emerald Center will be a nice substitute and give people something to do before, during or after the parade.
“The 18th Street Plaza activities will be back next year, with bells on,” Scanlan said.
Food vendors have become commonplace at downtown Scottsbluff events and will return once again for the Holiday Parade of Lights. However, downtown visitors are advised that there will not be parking available on Broadway after 3 p.m. Parking will also not be available in the Bluffs Middle School parking lots prior to the parade so plan ahead.
The holiday season will also be punctuated by a returning event in downtown Scottsbluff this year. On Saturday, Dec. 3, the Very Merry Christmas Market is sure to bring people to Broadway with events for shoppers and kids, young and young at heart.
Kristin Wiebe, one of the organizers of the market, said last year’s event enjoyed such success that people asked for it to return.
“Last year, we were still experiencing a lot of health concerns (due to the coronavirus pandemic) in the community, but people were really wanting to celebrate together,” she said. “An outdoor market made sense.”
A market also would bring together new businesses that had started during the pandemic, while highlighting the downtown. Wiebe said thousands of people gathered in downtown Scottsbluff last year, prompting people to ask organizers to consider doing it again.
“Many people said they had not shopped downtown for awhile,” Wiebe said. “This is a really great opportunity for people to go store to store and see what is downtown.”
Some changes will occur for this year’s event, in location and with businesses adding their own activities and specials.
“This year, we didn’t have a plaza, so we are moving it to the street,” Wiebe said of the market. “It is down the middle of Broadway, between 16th and 18th streets.”
Ornament making will start the day off at the West Nebraska Arts Center, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. At 11 a.m., The Midwest Theater will also be the host of a children’s Christmas storytime, organized by the Lied Scottsbluff Public Library. Children’s librarian Deb Carlson will read “Maple and Willow’s Christmas Tree” and the first 250 children will receive a free book and a cookie.
Then, people can enjoy Christmas shopping, get their photos taken and even get their purchases wrapped at businesses in the downtown area.
Most activities at the market will occur between noon and 5 p.m. Nearly 40 vendors and eight food trucks will join those businesses already in downtown Scottsbluff.
“The whole idea is that we hope that people spend the day in town, go out to dinner, and enjoy the holiday lights just as the market is closing. It really is pretty,” Wiebe said.
During the market, kids can visit Tossed & Found, 1607 Broadway, noon to 3:30 p.m. to make cards for area seniors with the St. Agnes Student Council, make their own pizzas at Flyover Brewery from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., make their own necklace at Reichert’s Jewelry or even decorate cookies at the Twins & Sons booth throughout the day.
At the Flyover Brewery, mini photo sessions will be offered. The Grinch and Santa will be on hand from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Crispy Biscuit for more photo opportunities, this time with people able to bring their beloved pets.
Performances are also planned, with the Prairie Fiddlers and Friends performing from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Midwest Theater lobby. WNCC Varsity Vocalise students will perform in front of the theater from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. The BMS Jazz Band will follow at 2:30 p.m., with the group Austin Sailors, a Jazz quintet, performing from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Other Christmas touches include a Gingerbread contest and carriage rides. Carriage rides are planned for 2 to 4 p.m. And, 12 competitors, all from local non-profits, are putting together Gingerbread houses for a contest that will be on display at the Midwest Theater.
The top three vote-getters will get a matching prize, up to $500, from corporate sponsors Kelley Bean, JG Elliot and Maren Chaloupka Law. People can vote for their favorite Gingerbread house the night of the Parade of Lights, during the market and other times when the theater is open to the public.
“Downtown merchants are doing some really fun stuff and there are lots of activities happening,” Wiebe said, saying the day promises for some really good fun.
For announcements about the vendors, activities and more at The Very Merry Market, follow its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/VeryMerryChristmasMarket.