Nov. 27, 2019 — Florence Area Chamber of Commerce is changing tradition. Instead of launching straight from the full bellies of Thanksgiving to the silver bells of the Florence Holiday Festival, the holiday season has been expanded to include an extra weekend of mirth and merriment in Historic Old Town and all around town.
“Thanksgiving and Christmas are really close together this year. So for the traditionalists who say you can’t have Christmas until after Thanksgiving, we had to work around that,” said Chamber Event Coordinator Mitzi Hathaway.
The solution is to have the new Cocoa, Cookie & Cider Trail and the opening weekend of Sea Lion on a Shelf on Saturday, Nov. 30, and move the Florence Holiday Festival to the following Saturday, Dec. 7, from 3:30 to 6 p.m.
With the new Cocoa, Cookie & Cider Trail, people are encouraged to “shop small” on Small Business Saturday — the day after the popular day-after-Thanksgiving shopping day called Black Friday.
“‘Shop Small’ is big,” Hathaway said. “On Saturday, we need everyone to come out. It’s so important to keep the money in our town. … By supporting our businesses, that money stays here.”
The special holiday snack trail will encourage people to shop local businesses and restaurants while getting treats in Old Town, uptown, off Rhododendron Drive and all the way south to Darlings Marina. This trail will run during each business’s regular hours, and the chamber will provide a map.
“That’s the great thing about the chamber,” Hathaway noted. “Being a chamber business means exposure. We advertise, we do these events and we do them for the community — but we also do them to get our businesses known.”
Starting today is the Sea Lion on a Shelf, sponsored by Sea Lion Caves, another new event. With 35 locations, this passport will guide people on a free adventure to spot “Sammy the Sea Lion” through Dec. 20. Once a person finds at least 15 of the possible 35 stuffed sea lions hidden at various locations, they are entered into a drawing to win $100, $50 or $25 at one of the participating businesses.
Hathaway said this brings a Florence flavor to the popular “Elf on a Shelf” book and photo challenge.
“Sammy has already made his way around social media,” she said. “We’ve had calls last week with people already wanting to find Sammy.”
Passports are available now at Florence Visitor’s Center, 290 Highway 101; Siuslaw News, 148 Maple St.; and BeauxArts Fine Art Materials and Gallery, 2285 Highway 101.
“We want people to use the hashtag ‘SeaLionOnAShelf,’ ‘ShopSmallFlorence’ and ‘CocoaCookie&CiderTrail,’” Hathaway said. “The community is excited, the merchants are excited and we’re excited for all these events.”
Also visible around town starting this week are the chamber’s custom snowflakes, which were refurbished earlier this year and now sport a fresh powder coating and lights. These were installed on Monday thanks to the efforts of Florence Public Works and Central Lincoln PUD.
Additional decorations from both the chamber and the City of Florence will go up once the weather calms.
“There are two trees in Old Town, the traditional tree, that the mayor will light on Dec. 7, and the gazebo tree. And I get to decorate the gazebo tree,” Hathaway said. “This tree is for the kids. It’s a whimsical, Santa Claus, candy land, Santa’s workshop type of tree. … For those walking by on Bay Street, it’s going to glimmer and it’s going to shine.”
For the 2019 holiday season, the Florence chamber purchased a commercial-grade tree, new ornaments and LED lights that will last through this season and more to come.
“With Sea Lion on a Shelf, the Cocoa, Cookie & Cider Trail and the tree that the chamber is decorating, we’re really reaching out to the kids in this community,” Hathaway said. “We want to have the magic of the holiday season.”
She said the tree would be up by the end of Thanksgiving Day and would encompass many of the season’s holidays, from Yule, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the New Year.
The following Saturday is the traditional Florence Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting from 3:30 to 7 p.m. The community is invited to Historic Old Town Florence for the annual festival to enjoy live entertainment, warm beverages, great holiday season sales, hayrides, caroling and the Mayor’s Tree Lighting Celebration at 5:30 p.m.
“Santa has agreed to be here and he’s coming in on the fire truck,” Hathaway said. “And we moved the tree lighting to be a little earlier. This gives people time to stay for the tree lighting and go up to the Florence Events Center for Holly Jolly Follies. You could park in the middle and go to both — make a night of it.”
Florence Events Center, 715 Quince St., will also be hosting the free Empty Bowls fundraiser for Florence Food Share from Dec. 6 to 8 and Florence Regional Arts Alliances’ Holiday Arts Festival on Dec. 7 and 8. More information is available at eventcenter.org.
The Florence Holiday Festival will include music and entertainment, accompanied by a portable sound system, and is inclusive to people of all ages. Hathaway has invited seniors from local retirement homes to attend.
One new aspect Hathaway is bringing to the Holiday Festival this year will be the spirit of giving. People will be encouraged to bring one or two food donations of the Florence Food Share’s most-needed items to collection spots included in the festivities.
“We’re hoping to fill in gaps left after the Pounding, after Thanksgiving, when all that food is distributed,” Hathaway said. “We hope the food share can take inventory and let us know exactly what they need. That’s where the chamber and this event are going to come in — let’s fill those gaps, be it for formula, peanut butter or whatever they need to get through the entire holiday season and beyond.”
Hathaway has lived in Florence since March and been with the chamber since the fall. She has worked on many events since starting, which have been good practice for juggling three festive events at once.
“We are really gearing our events right now around the magic of the holiday season through the eyes of kids,” Hathaway said. “It’s all about having fun and bringing families together. And none of our events cost. The tree lighting is free, the hayrides are free, seeing Santa is free, the Sea Lion on a Shelf is free. Everything is free. The only thing we ask is that when you go to do your shopping, shop locally whenever you can. That’s why the chamber is here, and that’s why we do what we do.”
For more information, call the Florence Visitor’s Center at 541-997-3128 or visit florencechamber.com.