By GARY POPP
NEW ALBANY —
It’s officially Christmastime in New Albany. City leaders, business owners and area residents rang in the holiday Saturday during New Albany’s annual Holiday Fest.
The day-long event offered activities for kids, spurred local business
with the Jingle Walk and entertained festival goers with Christmas-themed dance performances by area youth.
And, Santa was there, too, handing out gifts moments before the lighting ceremony wrapped up the event in the parking lot of MainSource Bank at the corner of Spring and State streets.
The bank’s parking lot was the hub of the festival’s activities, but the holiday music playing there filled the surrounding streets with Christmas cheer as folks on the Jingle Walk visited downtown business. Nearly 500 people registered to participate in the Jingle Walk, organized by Develop New Albany.
The Jingle Walkers paid $15 and $20 in exchange for a keepsake wine glass, which they could take to 15 downtown businesses where a variety of wineries were set up to pour out samples.
“It gets bigger every year,” Develop New Albany board member Courtney Lewis said. “This is the best year we have had.”
The Jingle Walk gave people the opportunity to frequent the participating businesses and become more familiar with what the city’s commercial area has to offer.
“It is great just to get to know about all these places that, honestly, we didn’t even know were here,” Carrie Philpott, of New Albany, said of the Jingle Walk.
Philpott made the Jingle Walk stroll with her sister from Floyds Knobs.
She said they are already planning on participating again next year and thinks she will come back to visit the stores before next Christmas.
Kevin Metcalf, an employee at Billow Cigar Lounge, one of the designated businesses on the Jingle Walk, said the event had increased patronage throughout the day.
“Foot traffic is a thousand times greater than usual,” he said, adding that there were up to 40 people in the store at one time earlier in the day.
He said the Jingle Walk exposed Billow to people who would not have regularly visited the niche business.
“Even if they didn’t make a purchase today, they can pass along to others who might be interested,” Metcalf said.
Conner’s Jewelers also saw an uptick in visitors during Holiday Fest. “We have been flooded today,” said one of the jewelers’ employees Kameron Jenkins. “There has been hardly enough room to walk through the showroom.”
He said the Jingle Walk is a positive event because it brings people to downtown New Albany and lets them experience the area in a way they otherwise wouldn’t have.
Several blocks from MainSource Bank parking lot, hundreds of kids gathered in the Floyd County YMCA gymnasium.
In the facility, children bustled about making crafts, bouncing about in a large inflatable enclosure, navigating through a holiday obstacle course, eating sweet treats and getting photos taken with Santa Claus.
Tracie Eversoll, of Sellersburg, brought her 4-year-old son, Elijah to the Y’s high-energy kids’ play area.
“We wanted to see Santa, do the crafts and see the lights,” she said of her first visit to Holiday Fest. “And let him burn off some energy.”
Eversoll said she is thankful to the city officials who organized the event.
“There is a lot for the kids to do,” she said. “I really like that.”
A long line of tots formed in front of a face-painting station in the corner of the gymnasium.
Emma Sprigler, 7, munched on one of the large cookies that were handed out to the kids. A purple butterfly had been painted on her face.
She said her favorite activity was the craft making, where she had created a wreath and a finger-print candy cane.
About 60 members of Southern Indiana Gymnastics School performed five shows in the gym.
“This is our first time at Holiday Fest,” said SIGS president Kelly Fust. “We were looking for something this holiday season, so this worked out great, and this is a wonderful facility.”
Fust said SIGS junior gymnasts were excited to perform and that she commends area officials for hosting the community event.
YMCA Teen and Family Director Crystal Hardin said the kids at the play area were a mix of Y members and those making their first trip to the facility.
Hardin said area families benefit each year from Holiday Fest, which is only possible through working partnerships among the city and area organizations.
“It takes us all working together,” she said.