UTICA — The wind chills were high but so was the Christmas spirit during the 4th Annual Utica Christmas Walk on Wednesday night. Community members bundled up in scarves, coats and gloves to shop downtown, listen to live entertainment of holiday classics, drink hot chocolate and eat holiday treats. They also had a chance to visit with some of their favorite Christmas characters, such as Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus, as well as some local characters, such as Park the pig and the CES Credit Union dog.
“It’s cold, but it’s good to see so many people out,” said Utica Mayor Larry Friesel.
The walk is sponsored by Utica merchants and local members of the Utica Christmas Committee — Diane Benson, Scott Gilbreath and Martha Wilson.
“I think the turnout is good for being so cold,” said Benson. “We have 49 merchants on the street; the Utica High School band and choir are here.”
Also present was the Utica police and fire departments, Masonic Lodge, Morgan Grange and Order of Eastern Star.
During the Christmas Walk, visitors could participate in the Holiday Fun event, sponsored by Yellow Dog Express/Marathon Gas Station and Coopers Credit Union. If guests visited every merchant present, they could win a cash or gift prize. A coloring contest was also held for children.
“This is truly the way to have an old-fashioned Christmas — come down here to enjoy the event and you don’t have to spend any money,” said Benson. “We really have fun and enjoy ourselves.”
Downtown merchants stayed open late and local businesses came out to set up tables to visit with those attending the walk.
“Because of the weather, it’s not a large crowd as it has been in past years, but I am surprised at how many people are out,” said Lewie Main, employee of Lonsinger Pharmacy, who handed out candy and greeted visitors.
“I think [the Christmas Walk] is wonderful and it brings people out to the stores,” said Sandy Spillman, owner of Something for Everyone. “It’s great to have the merchants come together to do this, and we have such a wonderful community for their support.”
“It’s been really nice. I’ve seen a lot of out-of-towners stop in. They see the signs and the detour, and wonder what’s going on,” said Connie Davis of MaMa Maries, who was handing out homemade sugar cookies and hard tack candy.
Also spotlighting the night’s festivities was Santa Claus, accompanied by his helpers. Children of all ages lined up to speak with jolly Old Saint Nicholas, asking him to bring them something special this holiday season. Seven-year-old Morgan Homman said she enjoys seeing Santa, and every year comes to the Christmas Walk to speak with him.
“I asked for a big, fluffy dog that’s fake, and asked how Rudolph was doing. He said Rudolph was sick but is doing better now,” said Homman.
Velvet Ice Cream representative Melissa Anderson was giving free ice cream to guests during the walk, and collecting donations of mittens, gloves and hats to give to Utica and Newton elementary schools.