Uptown lights up for the holidays

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VANCOUVER — Uptown Village has a new set of lights illuminating the Main Street strand as business owners raised funds to help reign in holiday cheer.

From Main Street’s intersections with McLoughlin and Fourth Plain boulevards, lampposts are strung with white Christmas lights providing a festive glow on holiday evenings. 

The lights went live Nov. 15 and were funded by donations raised by Uptown Village Association members and businesses, UVA President and Cellar 55 Owner Michelle Brinning explained. Over $6,800 was raised, with the City of Vancouver chipping in $2,000 to help with the illumination, she added. 

Now 48 lampposts provide a more festive atmosphere along the storefronts in the village.

Getting the lights up had been talked about for several years, Brinning explained. This year the UVA was determined to have the lights up, going so far as to planning on installing the lights themselves, though the fundraiser worked well enough to get them professionally strung.

“It’s really exciting, and we’re really planning to do something even bigger and better with the lighting next year,” Brinning remarked.

With the street lit up the annual Christmas in the Village events can take place with a bit more fanfare. Three events make up this year’s festivities with the return of a big hit and the addition of a particularly “ugly” stroll uptown.

New for this year and rounding out Uptown Village’s events is an ugly holiday sweater pub crawl taking place Dec. 10.

Fifteen different locations in the neighborhood will be participating in the 21-and-over event, Brinning explained. Those taking part can go to the locations involved and have passports they are given stamped which can be turned in after four stamps for a drawing.

The participating locations will also have drink specials and giveaways for those wearing their ugliest. The reversed fashion contest will have the locations voting on the sweaters most violating of style laws for prizes from the businesses as well as $50 cash for the overall ugliest.

Some retail stores have been included in the pub crawl, pairing with a local brewery or winery for their libations, getting them involved with the tour of the area.

Brinning said the goal for the holiday promotions was for people to “rediscover” the Uptown Village. From the newly-lit streets, to hosting events that appeal to all ages, to showing off all the new businesses and opportunities available along Main Street.

The Christmas tree lighting ceremony, a staple of uptown events, makes a return Nov. 27 at the Compass Church (1812 Main St.). Brinning said the UVA has purchased all-new lights and ornaments for a large Douglas fir which will be the centerpiece of the event. Hough Community Choir will sing and several UVA-affiliated vendors will be giving out free hot drinks and sweets in part of the celebration. 

This year the lighting will also feature a professional disc jockey and sound system, adding to a “bigger and more professionally-run” event, as Brinning put it.

Making a return is the live reindeer Christmas block party on Dec. 4, after a fairly successful first outing last year.

Vancouver Pizza Manager Michael McClafferty explained that previously the business had helped to bring in horse-drawn wagons for several years. When the wagon rides weren’t available any more, Vancouver Pizza came up with the idea to find some live reindeer to provide another solid holiday experience.

Those animals came in the form of Comet and Blitzen, two reindeer from Reindeer Express, a Rearden, WA based ranch specializing in renting out their animals for events just like Christmas in the Village.

Last year for the inaugural reindeer games McClafferty said organizers were going in blind not knowing whether or not the chance of seeing the animals in the flesh would be enough of a draw. It turned out to be a rousing success with his estimates at about 2,000 attendees.

McClafferty said that last year’s event received positive feedback by Ed Benhardt, one of the owners of Reindeer Express, good enough for the event to continue.

“Most people, especially most city folk, have never seen reindeer in person, let alone pet them,” McClafferty said about the animals. Free hot drinks and cookies make a return from the first event, McClafferty said, along with Live music from Ebony Notes.

Award-winning sand sculptor Bert Adams will also be entertaining at the party, though his medium will be ice, more fitting for the wintertime festivities, carving frozen artworks.

Brinning said this year the goal was to have more of a street festival feel for the event, with Christmas gift vendors and a chocolatier also involved in the party. The addition of gift vendors worked as a way to give people more to do so that long lines to hang out with Comet and Blitzen won’t be an issue, McClafferty explained.

For the events like the tree lighting and the block party, McClafferty said it was a way for the UVA to show their appreciation to those who help keep their stores open.

“We’re more than just businesses trying to sell product,” McClafferty said. “We are also part of the community, not only the community in our neighborhood, but the community at large in Clark County, and this is our thank-you to everyone who has helped out and shopped (our businesses).”

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