I suppose I should have known the Holiday Stroll was a success when I tried to fetch a hot cup of cocoa for one of our staffers manning the Journal tent and came up empty. By 7:30 p.m., Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors had given away 300 cups of hot cocoa, 200 cups of hot cider and 600 cookies. Muscatine Search and Rescue had already gone through its allotment and they were prepared for more than the prior year. As I hit every known hot cocoa stop, I came away empty.

The Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry greeted strollers at its new location at the corner of Iowa and 2nd Street and gave away 800 cookies and reported they could have given away 800 more. But my favorite follow-up comment came from GMCCI employee Susan Fulton who said, “All the little kids were just so polite. They all said please and thank you.”

While I will remember 2017 as the year the Holiday Stroll ran out of hot cocoa and cookies, it is also the year just before downtown becomes something bigger and better. As I strolled from Mulberry to Pine and took note of the “dark” areas void of activity or outdoor sound for improvement for next year, I reflected on how differently it will look next December with the library at its new location and the Merrill Hotel full of holiday charm. I have so many ideas for the event yet to come to life, and I pledge to make as many of them happen as possible in 2018. I pledge this, Muscatine, because you showed up. You came out to support downtown Muscatine and the holiday stroll, and for that, I say thanks.

Thank you to our presenting sponsor Toyota of Muscatine whose support helps to draw attendees to the event from both inside and outside of Muscatine. Monsanto, the entertainment sponsor made possible for additional live entertainment and sound piped into the street. Thanks to this sponsorship, two more blocks had outside sound. Beckey Insurance & Financial Services, HNI Corporation Toyota of Muscatine and the Muscatine Journal sponsored the strolling characters that were filled by community volunteers. Many parents took home photos of their child with our strolling Elf on a Shelf, Snowman, Mrs. Claus, The Grinch and Christmas Tree.

Thank you to our Promotional Partners: Community Credit Union, First National Bank, Carriage House Carpet One, Creations by Oz & OzSome Treats, Geo Johnz Pizza, Sherwin Williams, CBI Bank & Trust, Muscatine Tech Guys, Wilton’s Window Walk, ESI and Wesley United Methodist Church. Their ads made publication of the event schedule possible.

Thank you to GMCCI, Muscatine Convention & Visitors Bureau and the City of Muscatine for their assistance with all of the behind the scenes work. I would also like to acknowledge Jerry Lange and First National Bank for including the lighting of the Community Tree in the holiday stroll event schedule.

And finally, to all of the downtown businesses who decorate their windows and open their doors to the public on stroll night. It is because of you that this event exists. We may bring the people, but you bring the charm, the welcoming spirit and, of course, the hot cocoa and cookies.

The event started as a way of saying thank you to the community, and now I ask you the community to help me thank those who make the event possible by keeping them in mind as you make your gift-giving decisions this holiday season.

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