NORWICH — The annual Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) Saturday in the Park with Chobani events got off to a great start this weekend, with nearly 50 vendors set up in Norwich's East Park.
"The first one is always the least attended, because as much as you advertise people still haven’t figured it out. A few people will show up and be like oh my gosh, I drove by and I saw you. But now it’ll start getting busier," said BID Board Member Mindy Chawgo. "Next week we have an additional 15 vendors, so we're over 50 vendors for the rest of the five weeks."
Saturdays in the Park with Chobani features a litany of area businesses, with products ranging from baked goods to Christmas ornaments, lavender products, pet clothes, wood carvings, and more. Several local organizations also set up in the park, including the Chenango Greenway Conservancy, the Chenango SPCA, the Norwich Garden Club, and more.
The weekly events will run for another five weeks, every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in East Park.
In addition to Saturdays in the Park, the Norwich BID has several other fall and winter events planned for this year. Chawgo said area residents can expect the return of past favorites, as well as some new additions.
"We have big things coming up: We have a cornhole tournament coming up, we’re going to bring back the soup competition at the very end," she said. "We’re going to do a big scarecrow contest in two weeks through the Business Improvement District, so all the businesses will have to decorate their own scarecrow. We have Commitment to Community coming up, so you can vote for your person who’s coming into the community and doing better, so that’ll be nice. And then we’d like to bring a winter festival hopefully in December."
This October will also see the return of the Norwitch Fall Festival, after its inaugural event last year. The event will be returning to East Park on Saturday, October 29, in conjunction with the Norwich Family YMCA Halloween Parade, a chicken barbecue by Columbus Public House, and the return of Trunk or Treat, with over 50 businesses setting up their cars and handing out candy.
"It’s become a whole weekend and we're all in Norwich. We’re all in our own community, we’re not leaving, and we’re supporting so many more new people. I have probably 20 more people this year that have approached me or heard about it and want to be a part of it," Chawgo said.
Plus, the second annual Norwitch Fall Festival will be getting a few tweaks and seeing some new activities to make it even better than before.
"We learned a lot from doing it, just the few of us doing it. So this year we’re including hay rides, and we’re going to have more pumpkin carvers, and we’re going to have more hands-on kids activities for them to do," Chawgo explained. "We learned the lines were a little bit longer and we’d like to shorten those up a little bit. So we’ve got a lot that’s going to be happening."
Following the festival will be the return of the beloved Parade of Lights, marking the second year the BID has acted as organizer for the holiday event. The parade will kick off at 6 p.m. on November 26 in downtown Norwich, after a full day of Small Business Saturday activities.
"We’re going to try to incorporate all the businesses into basket raffles, specials, we’re going to bring back the BID bucks, which is money that we can spend at all the local vendors in the BID district. So that’s huge. We want to bring the food trucks downtown this year, and then ending with the parade at 6 o’clock," said Chawgo.
"We’re going to have everything from people on stilts to light-up people walking around. It’s going to be a huge community event, and last year, if you were down there, there were thousands of people," she added. " I think now that we can advertise it sooner we can get even more people, and bring out the businesses to sell hot cocoa and apple cider and do donuts on the sidewalk, and bring back and do sidewalk sales. NBT will do a big function out in front. So I think it’s going to be great. I’m so excited about it."
Chawgo said the BID already has 50 participants signed up to be in the parade, making it even bigger than last year's.
With a full schedule for the next few months, Chawgo said her focus is going to be on promoting the community and bringing people together.
"It’s not so much about the money that you dole out, or the things, because that’s going to come naturally. It’s about seeing your community and seeing your people and being visible, and I think if you have a person that wants to make it better and having that person in the community and other people seeing it, it’s a vibe that everybody just kind of follows, and that's the best part for me," she said. "It’s not about the money that goes through this certain Saturday morning, it’s about the camaraderie that it brings with everybody, and I love that."