Whoville was hummin’ Saturday as throngs of people gathered in downtown Lovell for the annual Main Street Mingle Christmas kickoff celebration.
Sporting a revamped format with events and activities spread throughout the downtown business district rather than concentrated at the fire hall as in years past, the Mingle under the theme “A Whoville Christmas” proved to be wildly popular this year, drawing hundreds to the festivities.
The day began with the Dauntless Dash fun run at the fire hall, followed by the free movie “The Grinch” at the Hyart Theatre. Santa Claus arrived at 1 p.m. riding with Mrs. Claus atop a historic fire truck escorted by members of the Lovell Volunteer Fire Dept.
The Grinch was lurking nearby and finally made his move, stopping the fire truck around Nevada and Main. Fortunately, a Lovell police officer hurried to the rescue of St. Nick and escorted Mr. Grinch from the scene, allowing Santa to continue on to the Big Horn Federal community room for photographs with children.
At that point, the activities in downtown Lovell sprung to life in no fewer than 20 locations. Activities included a petting zoo and pony rides, games, a candy cane lane, contests, kid tattoos, hair coloring, face painting, photo cutouts of Whoville characters, crafts, balloon animals, a coloring contest and refreshments.
The action moved to the downtown mural park at 4:45 for caroling, hot chocolate, the lighting of the Christmas tree and a drawing for $600 in chamber bucks. There will be a second drawing on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 30, for $400 in chamber bucks. A live nativity followed at the Bible Church.
“Families were able to take time and enjoy each of the locations. They came downtown to stay and see it all,” marveled Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce office manager Linda Morrison. “That’s what was really great. Talking to families, many of them went to everything.
“They truly did mingle, and there wasn’t a very long wait in any of the places. The response I’ve gotten from families was that they couldn’t believe the variety of things to do. Every place was interesting to them, had something to offer that they enjoyed.
“Everything I’ve heard is positive. And for people to go in and actually see what businesses have to offer, everything turned out really well.”
One positive addition to the tree lighting near the end of the day’s activities, Morrison said, was the presence of singers from the Lovell Elementary School under the direction of Chauna Bischoff, who invited the dozens of people present to sing along with some of the carols.
“The singers brought the feeling of the day together,” Morrison said.
Though fearful of listing those to thank for fear of leaving someone out, Morrison expressed appreciation to the many volunteers who made the Mingle a success, including the Hyart Theatre, Club Dauntless, the town council, the volunteer firemen and Lovell Police Dept., the students who ran the events, Whoville characters, Santa and Mrs. Claus, the window painters, the town crew, the Bassett family and others.
“Everybody played a role to bring everything together,” she said. “We couldn’t have done it without everyone doing their part.”
The downtown retailers were also pleased to have so many people coming into their stores, Morrison said. Many stores were packed with families not only participating in an activity but also seeing what the stores have to offer shoppers.
“The ones I’ve talked to were all very pleased with the number of people who visited their stores,” Morrison said. “All of the businesses were very pleased. It was not a rush day, it was a leisurely, enjoyable day. And to end with the live nativity (at the Bible Church), they did a marvelous job. It was a great way to end the day.”
The idea to move the activities of the Mingle from the fire hall to the Main Street businesses came from Natalie Wardell and her colleagues at Big Horn Federal, Morrison said, noting that she liked the idea the first time she heard it, so much so that she was fully confident the new format would be a success.
“I had a good feeling about it all the way,” she said.
By David Peck