Well. In spite of the pandemic, we’ve made it to the end of November. How about that?
Black Friday this Friday is the last Friday of this month and the traditional start for Christmas shopping on the day after U.S. Thanksgiving – even though Black Friday sales have been ongoing for not a few days now, and I’m sure those Boxing Day blowouts aren’t far off. (Has Easter yet arrived at the $ Store? I wouldn’t be surprised.)
Black Friday this year also is the launch of a new St. Thomas and District Chamber of Commerce campaign to promote local shopping in these new normal times of ours.
“Right now, shopping local and supporting our small businesses has never been more important than ever,” says Paul Jenkins, chamber CEO.
“These are the local businesses that support our sports teams, our programming for our kids, and make incredible investments back into our community.”
It’s a social media thing called Favourite Things in which five local couples chose and shared some of their favourite locally sourced stuff, photographed at home in portraits by Candice Van Diepen, who is cdeventstudio.com.
The five good sports are Tara and Jay McCaulley, Amanda and Chris DeVries, Dan Reith and Brian Helmer, Nadine and Chris Willemse, and not to forget, Sandra Poczobut and Paul himself. All are chamber volunteers or member businesses, and/or both.
And their favourite things range from delish artisanal food and drink, to cosy wear, giftware, art, home décor. Etc. and etc.!
“We’ve got some incredible items, food products, clothing, all sorts of great things for sale in St. Thomas and Southwold and Central Elgin, and we just wanted to showcase that.”
And do it in a kind of a fun way, Paul says. There’s no Rotary Tour of Homes this year, but we still get to visit folks’ homes for a peek around.
In fact, the campaign promotes more than 50 local goods and services – proving that if you can’t find the perfect gift here, you pretty much “ain’t going to find it nowhere.”
People are very welcome to add their own faves as they share the campaign on social media.
“We do have so many great shops and ways to fulfil all our wish lists in St. Thomas and Elgin County.”
And, he says, local businesses have stepped up to the plate with pandemic precautions to keep shoppers safe and COVID-19 rates down in our community.
Check the campaign out on the chamber’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. And like and share.
And even though this year’s will be a Christmas like never before, COVID-19 isn’t getting our Christmas spirits down.
There now is something like 50 entries registered for the three nights of next weekend’s reverse Christmas parade at Pinafore Park, hosted by Elgin––Middlesex––London politicos MP Karen Vecchio and MPP Jeff Yurek.
You gotta stay in your car to drive by the stationary parade, but non-perishables and cash donations welcome, as always, for local food banks.
And for folks without wheels, there also will be a school bus shuttle from the Canada Southern station to the park, starting 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 4 and 4 p.m. on Dec. 5 and 6. Remember your mask!
The parade itself runs 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. each evening next Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Meanwhile, Santa Claus arrives this Saturday in Aylmer with a reverse parade from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the East Elgin Community Complex. Again, donations of non-perishables and cash for the local food bank.
Canada Post will also collect letters to Santa at both parades.
Lighting up for Make-a-Wish
Dennis Taylor was outside Thursday putting up the last of the lights, a three-week job this year as he and Raymie Jewell get ready to plug in their annual display Saturday in Port Stanley at 291 Selbourne Dr.
The couple’s Christmas lights are an annual attraction, and they collect donations for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Southwestern Ontario. But, of course, a little differently this year.
“We will have a sign asking light enthusiasts to stay in their vehicles and tune into 99.9 FM to hear the music as they watch the show,” Raymie says.
“As you know, we must adhere to the COVID rules and not have an event that would attract large groups to congregate.”
There will be a donation box for Make-a-Wish but instructions how to give online as well.
The lights switch on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and will be on nightly to 9:30 p.m. (and Fridays and Saturdays, to 10:30 p.m.) until Dec. 31.
A graphical guide to safely donating
In spite of the pandemic – and, indeed, because of it — you *can* make a safe donation this year to your cause of choice.
Southwestern public health has created a graphical guide to encourage safe practice.
“It is our hope that people continue to donate to local charities and non-profits – and donate generously – despite the ongoing pandemic,” Megan Cornwell, the unit’s communications manager, says.
“We understand many people are in need this year due to the difficult circumstances.”
It’s pretty common sense. Wear a mask. Wash hands. Keep your distance. Consider contactless drop-off or pickup, if possible. And grocery store gift cards are always a good idea.
Here’s a link: swpublichealth.ca/saferdonationtips.
The Windjammer Inn has been our go-to place for opening night dinners for Port Stanley Festival Theatre. Even this year, when the theatre went dark, we went for a Nope-ning Night and I had the duck. (I’m so boring. I always have the duck when it’s on the menu.)
Owner and chef Kim Saunders posted this week that her inn now is reserving dine-in for locals, only … those folks fortunate enough to live within 50 kilometres of the resto. The pandemic, don’t you know.
Kim Facebooked it has been a difficult decision to make “that feels as though it flies in the face of everything that hospitality stands for.”
But, she said, a necessary one.
“We are only doing this to protect our beloved community and make everyone’s experience as safe and pleasant as possible.”
And, she promised, “As soon as we are safely able, we will welcome our far flung visitors with open arms!!!”
She asked patrons to understand her decision. And, it seems, they do.
She has been applauded, even by one regular outside the 50 km.
Commented Lynn Madill: “We are summer residents and love our meals at the Windjammer but don’t live within the 50-km radius but we totally understand your decision.”
In the meantime, the Windjammer has offered tempting weekend takeaway. Last weekend’s Heat & Eat feature was roasted Cornish hen and a side of potatoes Boulanger: “Layers of potato (and sweet potato in this case) … simply seasoned with fresh herbs, salt and pepper and cooked with stock … like scalloped potatoes without the heavy dairy.”
Fill the Tree
Speaking of which ….
With the theatre closed because of COVID-19, the Port Stanley Festival Theatre, like others in these extraordinary times, is asking friends for some financial love.
“By providing even a small donation, you can be part of an effort to provide the Port Stanley Festival Theatre the ability to thrive once again in our community.”
Fill the Tree is a funder running through to Dec. 31. Donors decorate a virtual Christmas tree.
“By donating and placing your name on our virtual tree you are supporting the development of the next season.”
And as a thank you, there’s a chance to win a pre-show dinner for four provided by Kettle Creek Inn next season on the theatre’s patio overlooking the harbour. Minimum $50 pledge.
For info and to get your name on an ornament on the tree, click through the theatre’s website.
Closer to home, the Elgin Theatre Guild has announced a virtual concert featuring local favourite folkster Dave Gunning.
The Juno-nominated and multi-East Coast Music Awards winner has been a regular – and popular –visitor from down east to the guild’s ongoing music series at the Princess Avenue Playhouse.
And more. Like music series convener Dave McCormick emails, this town *luvs* him:
“Dave’s first visit was Oct. 14, 2007, recommended by J.P. Cormier! He has played in the theatre at least seven times with numerous quiet visits to do house and private other shows in the area.
“He has grown to luv St Thomas and St Thomas has grown to luv him.”
The playhouse has been pandemically dark since March, with the theatre guild losing even its always-SRO holiday pantomime, a major source of dough-re-mi for the community theatre to pay the bills.
“We don’t anticipate being able to reopen for quite some time, so generating some much needed funds is critical to our future.”
When Dave McC. called Dave G. and asked if he might do a Zoom concert to help out, he was in.
There’s now a save-the-date for the evening. It’s Jan. 8, 2021 (2021, already!) at 7:30 p.m. EST, with the ‘cast from Dave Gunning’s studio in Pictou county, N.S., set up by our town’s Establish Media.
They’re suggesting $20-a-household, tax-receiptable donation for the show. And hinting a donation even if’n you can’t join the fun. (And, indeed, Dave McC. promises fun, saying, “It’s going to be a blast.”)
To sign on, send a cheque to ETG to Dave at 6 Sparta St., St. Thomas, Ont., N5R 5G9, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a pickup. (Unfortunately, e-transfers not possible.)
There you have it!
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Lastly today, as they say on Black Friday, let the local shopping begin! (BTW, I wear size Large to XL, depending. Just sayin’.)