WeTHRIVE! in Reading and the Reading Bridal District held the first City of Reading Holiday Walk on a windy, rainy December evening. Despite the bad weather and the fact that this was the first time for this event, 600 people attended, making it a success for everyone involved.
Collaboration was key from the start as the team worked to plan and execute the Holiday Walk in just a few months. After hearing from WeTHRIVE! team members Alyse Capaccio, Savannah Dupras, and Donna Wiggins, we identified ten reasons why the event was so successful.
#1 All parties at the planning table. In addition to three WeTHRIVE! in Reading team members (Alyse, Savannah, and Donna), the Holiday Walk planning team included a city employee (Sabrina Smith, who is also a WeTHRIVE! team member), a councilmember (Katie Eadicicco), and a Bridal District business owner (Debbie Peak owns Reading Floral Boutique and is currently president of the Reading Bridal District). The team plans to include more representatives from businesses and the city for next year’s event.
#2 Piggyback onto an existing community tradition. For 30 years, the local Girl Scouts have hosted a special night for the city that includes a crib dedication, tree lighting, and Santa photo opp. Diane Brown (Reading’s city clerk and longtime Girl Scout leader) and Susan Slavey (Reading parks and recreation department) organized this event and agreed to let the Holiday Walk join their annual celebration.
#3 Location, location, location. The Reading Bridal District is on Benson Street in the heart of Reading and includes a variety of wedding shops and other small businesses. Even the stores that were not open during the event were able to participate by hiding pickle ornaments in their storefronts for the Holiday Walk’s scavenger hunt (more on that later).
#4 Keep it local. While some cancelled because of the bad weather, ten Benson Street shops and 14 local vendors did business throughout the evening.
#5 Include the faith community. Reading area churches were invited to supply carolers for the holiday walk. Groups from St. Paul Lutheran Church, St. John United Church of Christ, and First Southern Baptist Church participated.
#6 Work with the city. The Holiday Walk planning team communicated and collaborated with the city to arrange for the street to be closed down and to make the event happen.
#7 Spread the word. The planning team set up a new website for the Holiday Walk and the event was posted on WeTHRIVE! in Reading’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as the city’s social media. LaRosa’s and Strong’s Brick Oven Pizza attached event flyers to their pizza boxes and the Holiday Walk was on the list of holiday events on Cincinnati.com. Alyse thinks the best publicity came from Reading Community City Schools (a WeTHRIVE! school district), who shared the event with students, parents, and teachers.
#8 Recruit volunteers (twice!). Sometimes WeTHRIVE! team members end up doing all the work at events like this, but even when the initial volunteer group had to back out due to a scheduling conflict, the team was able to find enough volunteers to help out.
#9 Money helps. Closing down the street was the biggest expense and a stipend from the WeTHRIVE! initiative made it possible. Other donations came from local businesses, individuals, vendor booth fees, and a luminary sale.
#10 A very popular pickle. A unique activity makes events fun and the Holiday Walk’s pickle ornament scavenger hunt was a crowd-pleaser. The activity is based on a tradition in Savannah’s family that involves hiding a pickle ornament in their Christmas tree every year. Twenty businesses decorated their storefronts and hid a pickle ornament in their display. Kids were given passports that were stamped if they could find the pickle ornament at a location. If they found all 20 pickles, they won an ornament from Reading Floral Boutique. Businesses got creative in hiding the pickle ornaments and families loved the scavenger hunt. One child was seen running down the middle of the closed off street shouting, “It’s a pickle party!”
What happens after an event is also important. Alyse Capaccio created a Holiday Walk Summary document that includes all the details and data from this successful December evening. The planning team looks forward to meeting with the city to discuss the event and plans for next year.
All photos are courtesy of Alyse Capaccio, Polyrhythm Studio.