MUSCATINE — In it's 34th year, Downtown Muscatine's Holiday Stroll is still bringing good tidings ahead of the holidays. This year, there may even be a motorcycle-riding Santa.
"The stroll is an example of a wonderful community celebration," Muscatine Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Jodi Hansen said. "It gives people the opportunity to get together with their friends and family and celebrate the holiday season and downtown Muscatine. It's also a great opportunity for folks to see what downtown Muscatine offers."
Each year, participating businesses have decorated store fronts and some may have in-store specials or serve food and drinks, and this year is no different. From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, 2nd Street from Pine Street to Mulberry Avenue will be blocked off to traffic for visitors to browse, shop and see festive holiday displays.
The free event, which draws thousands, is sponsored by local businesses and the Muscatine Journal. It will kick off at 5:30 p.m. with a tree lighting ceremony in the First National Bank plaza. This is the third year for the lighting ceremony featuring the tree donated by Jerry Lange of Muscatine.
"We are proud to sponsor this annual tradition," said Debbie Anselm, publisher of the Muscatine Journal, Quad-City Times and Dispatch-Argus. "As a part of the Muscatine community, we look forward to ushering in the season with an event that encourages residents and visitors alike to enjoy all that Muscatine has to offer. The lighting of the tree, strolling carolers and special offerings from local merchants are all part of the magic of the Holiday Stroll."
One group joining the stroll for the first time is Pearl City Life Riders motorcycle riding club. President Matt Peine said the group is hosting a coat drive at the event to collect new or gently used coats, hats and gloves to donate to Jessica Faye's Closet at Pearl City Outreach.
About 20 riders will be stationed outside Stigma Tattoo, 106 E. 2nd St., serving free hot cocoa and snacks.
The idea to participate, Peine said, came from the club's Road Captain Chad Brislawn. The group recognized a large need for Jessica Faye's Closet and were looking for different ways to support it.
Peine said unlike other nonprofit organizations, anyone that visits Jessica Faye's Closet "can get what they need without any questions asked or any money changing hands."
The closet was named after Peine's daughter, Jessica, who was struck by a vehicle and killed Dec. 15, 1998, as she was walking home from school. Jessica's organs were donated to the Iowa Donor Network, which the group formed to support.
Because it was so close to the holidays when she died, Peine said her gifts and their tree was donated to a family in need through Pearl City Outreach. The non-profit later formed a clothing closet for donations and named it after Jessica.
Peine offered a "thank you" to the community for its support and hopes by attending the Holiday Stroll, more people will get a better understanding of motorcycle riders.
"I hope they see that not all motorcycle riders are gang members," Peine said. "And a lot of motorcycle riders do a lot for charity."
He said he heard there may be some riders dressed as Santa, and he himself might be decked out in a red suit — if he can fit it under his riding gear.
"I'm excited about it," Peine said.
Merrill Hotel to host Clauses
The Merrill Hotel, which opened earlier this year, will also participate in the stroll. The lobby is decorated for the holidays and during the event, Santa and Mrs. Claus will listen to children's wish lists and be available for photographs, with guitarist Matt Hepker playing live, said Lori Denney, director of sales and marketing at the hotel.
Participating in the event is a way for the hotel to encourage tourism in Muscatine, Denney said.
"Because I think we're the anchor for downtown," she said, "and as a way of giving back to the community."
The hotel will also have complementary hot cocoa and cookies for visitors and will offer free horse and buggy rides around the hotel block. Maxwell's will serve dinner specials and have chili and chicken noodle soup available for purchase.
"It's part of being part of the community and being a central hub," Denney said.
Collaboration brought the event together, with Muscatine Power and Water and the City of Muscatine putting holiday decorations up around downtown.
"Any time you can have a community celebration that has this history — 34 years is a great tradition to have — and to be able to come together every year and see your old friends, make some new friends and visit downtown businesses, I think it's a great opportunity to come together," Hansen said.