By Rob Montana
Black Friday has a little different meaning in Tompkins County – it’s the day that Local First Ithaca’s Local Lover Challenge kicks off.
This year is no exception, with the month-long effort starting on Friday, November 25; it runs through Christmas Eve on Saturday, December 24.
“It’s meant to encourage people to go to places they might not normally go,” said Jan Rhodes Norman, a founding member of Local First Ithaca.
Here’s how the Local Lover Challenge works: People go into many participating businesses throughout Ithaca, Trumansburg, Lansing and other Tompkins County locations and collect stamps at the locations. Once a person has collected five stamps on a card they can pick up at any of the participating businesses, they submit it to Local First Ithaca to be entered into a drawing for prizes. The grand prize winner also gets to designate a local non-profit organization to receive a $500 donation in their name.
Rhodes Norman stressed that no purchase is required to collect the stamps from the business.
She noted that Local First Ithaca has worked to include businesses outside of Ithaca.
“We are trying to work not just with Ithaca, but the Chamber in Trumansburg, with businesses in Lansing and other places,” Rhodes Norman said. “We are trying to partner with more communities and groups to offer more activities (this year).”
The Challenge kick-off will precede Buy Local Week, proclaimed by Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick to take place from Monday, November 28, through Sunday, December 4.
Buy Local Week will start with a play on the growing Cyber Monday online shopping bonanza – Cider Monday – designed to get local folks to check out what local cideries and retailers have to offer.
“There will be events throughout the community,” said Rhodes Norman. “Places will be doing cider tastings – hot cider, cold cider, hard cider – and have other special things related to cider.”
She said all the final details, for Local Lover Challenge and Cider Monday events are still being hammered out and encouraged people to visit the Local First Facebook page for more details in the coming week. The Downtown Ithaca Alliance, which is working on the Cider Monday promotion, as well as other holiday events, noted it would have more details available on its Facebook page, too.
These initiatives are designed to keep more local money in the community, which helps create a more sustainable local economy.
“When money is spent at independent locally owned businesses, the money stays here and strengthens the economic base of where we live,” said Gary Ferguson, executive director of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, in a prepared statement. “Plus, patrons should support these one-of-a-kind businesses because they contribute to the character of our community with exclusive shopping and dining options.”
Strengthening the local economy is exactly why Local First Ithaca has continued to work on bringing together local residents and local businesses throughout Tompkins County.
“Building a sense of community with the businesses rooted in your community is more important than ever,” said Rhodes Norman. “While we may have a fairly strong community-wide commitment to buying local, the ease and habit of buying online has made it more competitive than it ever has before.
“It poses a number of problems in the community, one of which is the loss of local jobs,” she added. “But we don’t just lose the quality of life in the community that distinguishes us from others, in many cases we lose sales tax dollars. Those sales tax dollars are what create a strong infrastructure that supports schools and other public services at a time when people are complaining because property taxes are going higher and services are being cut.”