Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.
The Holiday Shoptacular that began in early November jumpstarted the holiday shopping season in downtown Battle Creek and it's now headed into overdrive with a two-day Winter Wanderland event on Friday and Saturday.
Although the city and downtown merchants have always hosted various holiday-themed events and activities, the advent of Shoptacular and Winter Wanderland this year involves collaborations that are laying the foundation for these signature events that city and small business development leaders hope to grow in the coming years, says John Hart, Small Business Development Director for the City of Battle Creek.
was launched during the first week of November as a “call to shop local,” Hart says.
Not only can customers find one-of-a-kind items and a variety of food and drink offerings in locally-owned shops and restaurants, they also have an added incentive to spend their money in the city’s downtown district in the form of weekly drawings every Monday leading up to Christmas.
To be entered into the drawing shoppers must visit at least three participating stores or restaurants, make a qualifying purchase at one of these places, and post photos of themselves on Facebook visiting three locations or photos of the purchase or purchases they’ve made. They also are encouraged to tag Downtown Battle Creek
and use the hashtag #BCShoptacular.
The shelves at Aspidistra are filled with items to soothe the body and the mind.
“Some of the winners in these drawings have told me that they come to downtown to buy particular things but haven’t come down here to casually shop in 20 or 30 years,” Hart says. “Shoptacular is an effort to support downtown businesses and expose the community to what there is to offer.”
This initiative sets the stage for the two-day Winter Wanderland on Friday and Saturday that will offer a collection of holiday-themed events happening in and around Downtown Battle Creek. Hart says this event is a collaboration between the city’s Small Business Development organization, Café Rica/Breaking Bred, Penetrator Events, Sprout, Kellogg Arena, the Battle Creek Farmer’s Market, and Invigorating Touch.
“This is the first time for us doing these events together. We don’t want to always create things from scratch and we think it makes sense to build on those events and activities that we’ve all been doing,” Hart says. “We decided to do two days of programming. Our goal was to work with three or four different groups who are doing things independent of each other but working together.”
The events kick off on Friday with the Night Bazaar inside Kellogg Arena, from 4 to 8 p.m. Hart says this free, holiday-themed event is a fusion of the Night Market, hosted by The Battle Creek Farmers Market, and the Breaking Bred Bazaar, hosted by Café Rica.
It will include a Makers Market, pop-up market, and indoor activities for children who will be able to meet and greet Santa, participate in an indoor snowball fight, and glide down an inflatable slide.
A refrigerated case inside Simply Sensational Berries at 80 West Michigan Avenue is filled with a huge variety of sweet treats to choose from.
“The goal was to bring most of the makers people expected to find at Café Rica as part of their hospitality group, Breaking Bred, down to Kellogg Arena,” Hart says. “These will be fun activities for kids to do while parents shop.”
Outside of the arena in Festival Square Marketplace, visitors will be able to walk through the Holiday Tree Village, which will feature more than 25 Christmas trees, each decorated by local agencies and organizations. The trees, which were donated by Firekeepers Casino,
will be available for adoption on Sunday and those trees not adopted by individuals will be given to people who need a tree, Hart says.
While enjoying the holiday atmosphere and opportunities to duck into the shops outside, Hart says visitors will be able to take advantage of the city’s Social District and enjoy an adult beverage. They also will be able to sign up for free carriage rides that will take them on a tour of the downtown area. The carriage rides will be offered on both Friday and Saturday.
“If you show up and put your name on the list we’ll give you a timeslot and this gives you time to wander around and come back,” Hart says.
Adrianna Brown seen inside Aspidistra, a shop specializing in high-quality natural skin-care products, located at 32 West Michigan Avenue, Ste. 4. Brown helps with the day-to-day operation of the business owned by her mother, Lori Olsen.
The festivities on Saturday begin with a Holiday Craft and Vendor show at the Kellogg Arena from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $3.
Hart says he expects the craft and vendor show to draw large crowds to the downtown for day two of Winter Wanderland. There's also the Brass Band of Battle Creek
Holiday Concert at 7:30 p.m. at Kellogg Auditorium. The concert will feature the vocal talents of Battle Creek native and Broadway star Doug LaBrecque and the musical talents of internationally-acclaimed trombonist Joseph Alessi.
The holiday fun keeps rolling through the month with the city’s Christmas Parade, which steps off at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10. (In case you thought you missed it the parade was rescheduled due to North Pole-like conditions.)
And the Battle Creek Community Foundation also is hosting a Parade Pop-Up event that day from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at 32 West Michigan Ave., says Lori Olsen. She's the manager of 32 Enterprises, a newly-created social enterprise venture overseen by the Battle Creek Community Foundation, and owner of Aspidistra, a shop in downtown Battle Creek specializing in high-quality natural skin care products. Olsen says the pop-up will feature more than 10 vendors and free hot chocolate passed out by President and CEO of BCCF Brenda Hunt and BCCF staff.
“I hope people will be pleasantly surprised by what they see going on in our downtown district,” Hart says. “We sometimes hear that there is nothing going on in Battle Creek. We want people to know that if they look around them, they will see that there is a lot going on here and there is much more to come.”