CONWAY, Ark — Christmas came early this year in downtown Conway— the tree is up and ready to be lit while businesses have already started decking their storefronts.
It may seem strange for a city to already begin decorating for Christmas when we haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving, but in downtown Conway, simple ornaments and wreaths go a long way.
Jamie Gates, with the Conway Chamber of Commerce, said the decorations coming out early gives people the chance to anxiously sit tight for the peak of the beginning of the holiday season.
“I think a big part of the Christmas season and a big part of the meaning behind it is that waiting and this build-up,” he said.
The people of Conway don’t have to delay their holiday spirit anymore. Gates said the tree always adds a spark to downtown.
“When people see the tree come up, they know that something’s coming,” he said.
That “something” Gates is referring to is the city’s Christmas tradition, where two weeks from now people from all over will come together as they watch the tree light up downtown.
“It’s an event that’s for people in central Arkansas, and so over the last several years it’s really established itself as a Thanksgiving weekend tradition,” he said.
Gates said something new gets added to downtown every year for the holiday season.
“We make an intentional effort to grow the celebration every year,” he said.
This year businesses that stretch all along Oak Street joined in the festivities too.
Owner of The Go Store Erica Cason said Christmas items were put on the shelves earlier than normal.
“It just puts people in the mood to come out and shop and think about their loved ones, buy stuff for them,” she said.
Cason said ornaments, t-shirts and tinsels were out for sale in the middle of October.
“With Thanksgiving being later, I don’t want to put my Christmas decorations out just for four weeks so we’ve had them out for a little while,” she said.
No matter the season, Cason said the holiday spirit of giving doesn’t end at her store when the red and green fades away.
“We pack shoeboxes year-round. We love it, so that’s kind of our jam,” she said.
Cason said volunteers come to The Go Store to help pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, which is a worldwide ministry that gives kids gifts in over 140 different countries.
“It helps them have a little chance of love for the first time and even have something new for the first time in their life,” she said.
When the tree gets taken down and the decorations are stored in boxes, that warm feeling of the holiday jolliness will continue to fill the streets of downtown Conway.
“I think it’s generally a time that we think about loving one another well,” Cason said.
You can help with The Go Store shoebox drive here.
Conway’s Christmas Illuminate event is on Saturday, Nov. 30 starting at 3 p.m.