Monday, November 10, 2014
A Beary Merry Christmas in Downtown New Bern
When we opened Carolina Creations in 1989 our Downtown had been in decline for two decades. We had been living in the mountains of Colorado and were looking for a more temperate climate and a place that was "on its way but hadn't gotten there yet" since we missed that boat when we moved to Aspen.
We chose New Bern because it was on the water, it had beautiful architecture and it had active organizations trying to bring change to the community including, Swiss Bear, the New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce, the Craven County Arts Council and the Downtown Merchants Association.
Slowly things came together. One defining moment was the new addition to what was then the Sheraton. Then we got a new airport, the streetscapes began to be renovated (financed by MSD taxes), the Comfort Inn came (now Courtyard), then the Convention Center, the new Neuse River Bridge and so on.
As downtown merchants we tried different things to bring attention to our downtown and to bring shoppers back. One year we put out luminaries every Friday night, we started ArtWalks, and Black Friday open house.
In 2009 Carol from the Arts Council and I, started telling the other folks that we needed to start planning for Christmas in March, not in October, and we needed a theme. We choose A Dickens of a Christmas and off we went. We painted the story - A Christmas Carol - on large boards which we put in windows throughout the Downtown. The idea was to read the story you had to walk or ride past every storefront in our Downtown. We planned other things like wrapping the light poles with lights, a wreath contest, a scavenger hunt and so on. The Santa House had been a staple in the Downtown, but it wasn't like it is today!
Due to family illness, I retired as chairman three years ago and the girls, Amanda Banks and Lisa Edwards, from Tony Salem and Associates took over. That was a great move, they are young, have young children, and a lot more energy!
The name was changed and a new era began...