Christmas event is huge for city and county
By Jack criss
The Bolivar Bullet
The 2022 “50 Nights of Lights” celebration will kick off in downtown Cleveland on Saturday, November 12, beginning with Cleveland’s Holiday Open House at 10:00 a.m. This year promises to be even better than last year’s, according to Chamber of Commerce officials.
“The Christmas Holidays are tremendously important to the local economy,” said Cade Holder, Director of Community Programs for the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce. “We certainly hope locals will patronize the businesses who sponsor Park Commission Basketball teams, who decorate their windows to provide that ‘Hallmark,’ feeling. The owners of those businesses are our neighbors, and their children go to school in this very community. Shopping small with the whole family helps to build memories and contributes to our very own sense of place,” said Holder.
“We’ll be using cell phone data for an exact count of visitors this year, but we just have some snapshots of this data from last year which shows traffic along the greenway of better than 12,000 vehicles a night on some nights,” said Sean Johnson, Director of Tourism for the Chamber. “The total traffic count is going to easily be over 100,000 vehicles. Last year was a big year, and we have every reason to believe that this year will be even bigger.
Clearly, folks coming into Cleveland–whether local or from out of town–helps with commerce,” continued Johnson, discussing the economic benefits of the event. “People are going to purchase gas, they’re going to eat, they may do some shopping. In terms of tax revenues, before ‘50 Nights of Lights’ started back in 2017’ the typical tourism tax revenues for November were around $62,000, this past year the revenue was right at $100,000, a 61% increase in taxable sales,” said Johnson. “Considering the volume throughout the 50 days and Bolivar County’s relatively small population, I’d say that a least half of the visitors–probably more–are coming from outside the county. We do know that last year we had thousands of people coming from the Tupelo area on the east side of the state.”
Kicking off the season is downtown Cleveland’s Holiday Open House, scheduled for Saturday, November 12 from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Shops will “drop the paper” covering their window decorations to showcase their gorgeous window displays, and will offer treats and sips for shoppers staying the weekend with extended shopping hours from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 13. The evening of the 12th, there will be an official lighting of the Christmas Tree ceremony from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., featuring music on the mainstage on Sharpe Ave. and even a visit from Santa himself in the downtown Gazebo. City officials will “flip the switch” to illuminate the greenway, signaling the beginning of Cleveland’s 50 Nights of Lights.
To encourage locals and visitors alike to #ShopSmall, Cleveland businesses will offer holiday punch cards for purchasers. To participate, shoppers only need to visit any downtown Cleveland Main Street business, make a purchase, get a “punch,” and submit their card and contact details to the Chamber of Commerce to be entered into weekly raffles in December for a downtown Cleveland stocking, stuffed with goodies from downtown merchants and valued at more than $150 each.
Additional attractions during Cleveland’s 2022 Yuletide season include a new, 50-foot tall Ferris Wheel, towering over the downtown greenway for an incredible view of the shops and the lights. Scheduled for afternoon operation November 17-19, this featured attraction will provide opportunities to make special Christmas memories for the whole family. Thursdays in December will also feature a Christmas evening market from the Cleveland Farmers, Makers, and Bakers group from 5:30-7:00 p.m., tucked into the string-lighted alley between the Cotton House Hotel and 301 Bar and Grill.
Saturday, November 26, will be downtown Cleveland’s Small Business Saturday, where you’ll find wonderful Christmas shopping deals as well as Santa Claus riding in on a tractor. This full day of activites encourages shoppers to “Shop Small” while offering a fun letters-to-Santa campaign on Cotton Row, one of downtown Cleveland’s historic shopping avenues. The Cleveland Christmas Parade then takes place on Tuesday, November 29.
With extended shopping hours and special #ShopLocal raffles, this year’s celebration promises to be better than ever. For more information on all of the holiday specials and a calendar of activities, visit the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce’s events calendar at https://clevelandmschamber.com/events/community-calendar/.