Annual light up both charms and drives spending
By Amy Camp
Browsing the antique shops of Monongahela and New Eagle would have been activity enough on Friday night. The shops offered floor after floor of fascinating finds. And their complimentary cookies, wine and cider set a festive mood.
But there was so much more to discover on Main Street during the Santa Claus is Shopping in Town event: photos with Santa; performances by dance troops, carolers, the Ringgold High School Marching Band; and a DJ spinning tunes in the blocked off street (Monongahela’s own November version of Open Streets?).
My personal favorite features of the event:
1) The luminaries lining Main Street. Does anything say “peaceful night” more than a row of luminaries lighting up the walk? And I love that the hosting organization, the Monongahela Area Chamber of Commerce, asked everyone to pitch in. While Ringgold High School students volunteered to light the candles, the Chamber used Facebook to ask businesses to help out by lighting those in front of their shops. This is community – everyone stepping up and helping out where they can.
2) The historic church tour. The self-guided tour included 14 local congregations, some with their doors open and offering the best home-baked cookies this side of the Monongahela.
3) Seeing other community assets come to life on a Friday night. The library hosted a craft fair and had a hot chocolate station. There were hoards of people buzzing about the library producing a noise level not typically permitted. The positive energy was palpable. The Monongahela Area Historical Society had its doors open, too. They had one packed museum that night! And I love that they engaged us in conversation. As we walked throughout the space, we fielded questions on where we were from and how we’d heard about the event.
After we walked away from one of our chats (during which we talked about our decision to visit Monongahela rather than attending Pittsburgh’s light up night), I overheard somebody say “They’re from Swissvale. We beat out Pittsburgh!”
Two Person Economic Impact
While it’s obvious that what made the event such a success was the community spirit, the liveliness, and a sense of celebration, a part of the purpose (as evidenced by the name Santa Claus is Shopping in Town) was to get people spending in the business district. A nerdy game that I like to play when I go to neighborhood and community events is to tally my group’s spending to get a feel for the micro impact that we have in choosing to attend (see my 2014 post on the Joy of Cookies Tour for another example.) Friday night’s decision to saunter along Main Street resulted in $100 spending between two people. Here’s the breakdown:
Small items, including gifts at local antique shops $43.00
A piece of handmade pottery at the historical society $27.00
A 1791 Whiskey Rebellion shot glass, historical society $ 5.00
Used books at the library book sale $ 4.00
Dinner at Eat ‘N Park* $21.00
Grand Total $100.00
*We typically prefer to try independent restaurants, but we weren’t ready to eat until after our top choice was closed for the evening. (Lenzi’s Restaurant, we heard how great you are. We’re coming for you next time!) This being said, Eat ‘N Park was bustling with families enjoying a meal post-event, and it was clear that they’re an asset to the community.
So there you have it. This is the story of how Monongahela and New Eagle “beat out Pittsburgh” and what an enjoyable time a couple of Pittsburghers had being part of a homegrown hometown event. Nice work, Monongahela Area Chamber of Commerce and to all who were involved!
About the River Town Program
The River Town Program helps communities to recognize the Monongahela River as an asset around which potential community and economic development can occur, and thus value the river as a resource worthy of protection. Learn more at www.monrivertowns.com.