As Thanksgiving gives way to "Black Friday" and the month of November reaches its end, the coming weeks will be important for many businesses, with the yuletide proclivity for gift-giving granting retail sales a hefty boost before the fiscal year's end. Megastores and mom-and-pop shops alike therefore put out a figurative bit of mistletoe for their customers each year, hoping to attract as much of that holiday magnanimity as they can.
Representing 95 area shops and groups, Minot Downtown Business and Professional Association likewise brings that boost to businesses a bit closer to home by hosting the Olde Fashioned Christmas Open House on Main Street the day after Thanksgiving. Like its other seasonal events held throughout the year, the association's open house on Friday had an aesthetic to it more in line with an Old World Christmas market than your average holiday sale.
Portable fire pits at the streetcorners and warm refreshments served to passersby warmed an otherwise chilly afternoon. There were red and green decorations all over Main Street, with wreaths and laurels wrapped in ribbon, bright baubles and shimmering tinsel hanging from storefront windows. Not one, but two Christmas trees even softly glowed in the entryway of Little Blue Elephant Thai and Sushi.
The Minot Downtown Business and Professional Association president, Bonny Kemper, assists some local children with the toasting of marshmallows for making s’mores Friday afternoon, during the Olde Fashioned Christmas Open House on Main Street. Local groups and businesses hosted a variety of events and distributed refreshments to shoppers, kicking off the community’s holiday season with style.
The biggest draw was the many events planned for the day. These included live music, a tractor hayride sponsored by Kim Alberts of Allstate Insurance, pictures with Kris Kringle at Deanna Jundt's Photography, a holiday story time at Main Street Books, and any number of edible odds and ends being distributed to shoppers and pedestrians over the course of the day.
Minot Daily News reporter Flint McColgan interviewed Leonard Neiss, owner of Neiss Impressions, who said that he decided to give out pork-and-sweet-pepper kebabs from a streetside grill because his business was located a few blocks away from Main Street. Serving up the food allowed him to still be a part of the festivities, firing up and distributing around 800 kebabs.
Just up the street, Robert Field was distributing warm cups of "Monk's Robe" outside of Just For Me. He described the somewhat spicy seasonal beverage as a mixture of grapefruit juice and Dr. Pepper.
Association president Bonny Kemper said the open house was not too difficult to organize. "You've got a plan and a checkout list. Just like Santa," she added with a grin. They had not made any alternate plans, had weather been an issue. Fortunately, it was not.
"I think the weather's really helping," said Peggy Beach, owner of Peggy's Gift Shoppe. Though the air was crisp, the weather was altogether neither too cold nor windy. A number of people attending the open house stopped into her store, browsing through the curios, greeting cards, and other items for sale.
"It's a third of my sales for the year," Beach figured of the holidays' business.
Nancy Walter at the Taube Museum of Art said that they would be holding a "Festival of the Season" art sale. Unlike other such sales during the year, patrons can take the pieces home with them as soon as they are purchased, rather than having to wait for the exhibit to end.
In the Taube's lower gallery there was also the "Steal of the Season" sale, where member-contributed, "gently used" decorations were sold at low cost.
"It's just another way to raise a little money for the museum," Walter explained.
It seemed like most of the businesses downtown were getting their share of window shoppers, with people taking the opportunity to check out newly opened shops or revisit favorite specialties.
The evening culminated in the lighting of a giant Christmas tree in the middle of North Main Street, just between the Old Soo Depot Transportation Museum and 10 North Main. Donated by Rosella and Francis Pfeifer, the tree was transported by TC Nursery and helped up into its holster by Real Builders earlier this month.
Hundreds gathered for carols by choral group "The Five of Us" before the spruce was electrified, shining brightly and accompanied by a surprise fireworks display. Like the the streetcorner fire pits, the fireworks were a new addition to the event.
"They love that we keep adding things," said Kemper, suggesting that there may be more in store for next year's event.