Downtown bands together, creates festive event

CLINTON— On July 25, the Clinton downtown district will begin to look a lot like Christmas.

That’s because the Downtown Clinton Alliance has worked with more than a dozen downtown business owners to organize the city’s first Christmas in July event, with the small businesses offering Christmas-like sales that day and sidewalk sales from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., along with a punch-card program and raffle giveaways.

And what Christmas celebration would be complete without Santa and Mrs. Claus? The couple will be available for free photos at Riverfront Antiques throughout the day, according to DCA Executive Director Karen Rowell. The day will be the culmination of the district’s small business owners collaborating to highlight the area, Rowell said Tuesday.

“This is really the effort of our retailers coming together, several new retailers as well, to get people excited about what’s going on in our downtown,” Rowell said. “We’ll have store decorations and things like that to really get festive.”

The idea was spearheaded by those at Riverfront Antiques, Rowell said. A relatively new downtown business, Sydney Cronin, of Riverfront Antiques, explained how the wheels began turning for the planning process.

“It really all started a few months ago,” Cronin said. “We saw that (July) 25 coincided with the last Music on the Avenue concert of the year, so I think we just thought it could really make that a great day from start to finish. Clinton’s downtown is really beautiful, so we thought this would be a fun, festive way to celebrate what we have here.”

Attention to the city’s downtown district has ramped up in recent months as an official Downtown Master Plan is in the crafting process by the likes of Rowell, the DCA, and outside developers. Various projects are emerging to restore several district buildings, transforming them to both commercial and residential space as officials look to revitalize the prominent shopping area in the city.

Rowell, who has been at the forefront of the process, highlighted the Christmas-themed event as another way to keep the district alive, using themes from the Master Plan to bring similar events to the downtown.

“With the raffles and the punch-card rewards and things like that, I think it will get people out and about going to our small businesses,” Rowell said.

Cronin agrees with Rowell. Gone are the days of large, national chain stores inhabiting the city’s downtown, she acknowledged Tuesday. However, that doesn’t mean the district is dead. The evolution of the area is ongoing, with places like Riverfront Antiques now at the forefront of the downtown’s commerce.

“We are really in the era of small business,” Cronin said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to get another Von Maur, or a Woolworth’s or things like that that you used to see. Now, it’s on us as small business owners to get people excited about our downtown. (Christmas in July) is just one of those ways we can do that.”