Chamber forced to pull plug on annual Yule parade, other holiday plans are being made
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The coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on traditional Christmas activities in Cairo including the long beloved parade and the newer Mistletoe Market.
Although they will not take place in the way we are used to enjoying them, new versions designed to keep everyone healthy are on the drawing board.
Both Alyssa Blakley, Cairo Main Street director, and Courtney King, interim executive director of the Cairo-Grady County Chamber of Commerce, say they want to make sure the community and local businesses have a special holiday season.
“The holiday season is such an important time for our merchants downtown, as it is their busiest time of year for sales,” says Blakley.
She points out that many small businesses are feeling the economic impact of the pandemic and are struggling to stay in business.
The Christmas Parade, which was started by downtown merchants decades ago to promote shopping locally, will take on a different look this year.
King says the chamber is working with Cairo Main Street to organize a drive through holiday display on Thursday, Dec. 3, the original date of the parade.
“We want to treat it like the parade with participants/businesses/churches/schools filling out the application, as usual, but we want them to decorate their buildings,” explains King. “This is not just for our downtown businesses . . .this is for everyone in Grady County.”
King says the chamber could compile a route for people to follow to see the decorations of participants, which could also include individual houses.
“We would compile a list of the participants, and people would be able to ride around to see their decorations throughout the holiday season. We are still ironing out the wrinkles,” King explains. She says decoration contest winners would likely be announced later in the season.
Anyone interested in participating, is asked to contact the chamber at (229) 377-3663.
They may also ask for floats to be on display the night of the “parade” at a specific location, but those details are still under consideration, she says.
“We’re trying to find the best solution to the hand we’ve been dealt,” King says. “Obviously, no one wanted to cancel the parade.”
Regardless, the canopy of lights will turn on officially the night of Dec. 3.
The Mistletoe Market, which began in 2015, grew to more than 80 vendors last year, and attracted hundreds of shoppers.
Blakley says although many neighboring communities are canceling their holiday shopping events, Cairo Main Street is working on an alternative idea.
“I really did not want to see our downtown small businesses miss out on holiday sales this year, so our planning committee put our heads together to discuss a few alternatives,” says Blakley. “This year’s Mistletoe Market will take place in the Gate 16 Plaza in downtown, which has also felt the economic pressure of the pandemic this year. The building is sectioned off into manageable and affordable incubator spaces for new entrepreneurs who can start their business without high overhead costs. Gate 16 Plaza has several tenants who remain throughout the year and offer unique goods, including a coffee shop and deli.”
The market will kick off on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28, and participating vendors have a choice of setting up for a day, week or month inside Gate 16 for a “reasonable fee,” according to Blakley who also says Gate 16 will offer extended hours during the season and merchants will be encouraged to follow suit to give shoppers more time each day.
Spreading the market out over a month is expected to reduce the chance for large crowds of shoppers to congregate, while also giving local merchants, restaurants and crafters a chance to recover lost sales.
For more information about becoming a Mistletoe Market vendor, call Cairo Main Street at (229) 377-1722, ext. 185.