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November 13, 2012

Officials report record crowds for Christmas in Cullman

CULLMAN — Perfect weather and a revamped events line-up combined for record crowds this weekend for the annual Christmas in Cullman festival.

The 27-year-old event expanded its footprint to additional areas, added a downtown ice skating rink and featured a beer garden for the first-time ever this year.

Shop owners reported positive gains from exposure and record foot traffic — though interim Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce President Leah Bolin admitted there was a bit of a dip once the University of Alabama’s football game kicked off Saturday afternoon.

“I think we definitely had record crowds, but at around 2:30 p.m. it fell off for a few hours, which we anticipated,” she laughed. “But we had a lot of new things this year with the ice skating rink, chunk the chicken and window display contests. All the new things this year were very well received. I believe the community as a whole, as well as the shop owners, really enjoyed all the things we had in place for our visitors.”

Bolin said the first-ever window display contest helped inspire business owners to set the holiday mood. The contest will likely continue next year.

“Judges had a really hard time and everyone went above and beyond what we anticipated,” she said. “The winners Bennett’s Home Supply, Fairview Florist and Carlton’s Italian did a great job, but it was a close contest.”

Nathan Anderson, with the Cullman Downtown Merchant’s Association, said local residents and regional tourists continue to support the event as it grows with each passing year.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better event, and one of the reasons events like this are so successful is Cullman has great support from the community and we appreciate that,” he said. “Many merchants say Christmas in Cullman is often their best day of the year and we just want to keep growing and building on that. It’s truly a collaborative effort with so many organizations pulling this thing together.”

Though attendance estimates range in the thousands, exact statistics aren’t available. But that’s something Bolin hopes to change in the future by implementing some new tracking techniques that will keep a better check on who is visiting the area.

“Our office is hoping to do more and encourage our retailers in taking zip codes so we can get a more accurate count from outside the Cullman area and inside the area,” she said. “This is something that is really needed and we’re working on it, educating folks and getting the word out through our retail committee. We want to take and build on some of the great traditions we’ve had the past 27 years, then create some new avenues to bring people in from outside of Cullman. Ideally, we’ll be able to get them back to town for Oktoberfest, Rock the South  and all the other great activities we have to offer.”

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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