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The Scarlet & Black

Jingle Bell Holiday ushers in the season this Friday

Photo by Kosuke Yo

By Mira Braneck

Jack Frost has yet to arrive in Grinnell, but that’s not stopping the arrival of Jingle Bell Holiday, Grinnell’s annual holiday kick-off event. If you head downtown tonight between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., you will find yourself in the midst of a holiday extravaganza, complete with free horse-drawn carriage rides and a visit from Santa.

The event, organized by the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce, features festive activities hosted by the businesses of downtown Grinnell.

“We have over a dozen different businesses who will be open late and have added activities in their stores,” said Rachael Kinnick, director of the Chamber of Commerce.

The activities include cookie decorating, live music and events aimed at children. There will also be a winter farmer’s market in the Masonic Temple building, complete with 12 different vendors who also work during the regular farmer’s market season selling baked goods, craft items and produce. And watch out for Rockettes because Michelle’s Dance Academy will be holding a dance performance at 5:30 p.m. in front of the Strand movie theater.

The event, while fun and intended for community-building, is also designed to help the small businesses of Grinnell head into the holiday season.

“Our small retailers can’t compete,” Kinnick said, referring to the economy of the holiday season that is largely geared towards big businesses. “What we can do is have our open house ahead of time so that it at least encourages people to come downtown and check out what there is to offer in Grinnell before you go out and do all of your holiday shopping and be thinking of ways you can come back and support our local retailers.”

While it may feel like it’s much too early in the season for a holiday-themed event, it’s a strategic choice on the part of the Chamber.

“It’s meant to be an opportunity for customers to come downtown and experience what they can, come back and find for holiday shopping. It’s intentionally early, before Black Friday and before Thanksgiving and things like that, because it’s one of the few ways our retailers can compete in the [holiday] economy,” Kinnick said.

The event brings people of all ages, from young children to college students to retirees. Kinnick loves to see the community-building that occurs during the event.

“It’s a very successful event. It’s a lot of fun to see the community just kind of come out and embrace the holidays, and just in general, just kind of getting out and experiencing Grinnell,” she said. “It’s always a unique event in that it draws all sorts of people — retirees and college students and families. It’s kind of fun to be able to see all those demographics interacting with each other.”

After Jingle Bell Holiday, businesses downtown will begin operating under holiday hours for the two weeks leading up to Christmas. From Dec. 12 through Dec. 23, businesses will be open extra hours from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the weeknights, as well as open until 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Some will also be open that Sunday, Dec. 18, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Aside from extended shopping hours, there is something magical about the event to Kinnick.

“It’s not something you see every day — horse-drawn carriage rides going around the downtown square, so that’s sort of a fun thing, again for all different demographics to experience.”

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