Local shoppers turned out in strong numbers in downtown White Salmon on Saturday, taking advantage of the festive atmosphere around the "I'm dreaming of a White Salmon" holiday campaign.
Merchants in White Salmon's downtown business district expressed glee over Saturday's busy sales day, which was sponsored by the White Salmon Arts Council.
Leslie Lampe, owner of Trellis Fresh Flowers & Gifts, said the day was a big one.
"It was wonderful," Lampe said. "There were lots of people, and it was nice to see an organized effort that involved enough of the community to make it really happen. I think it was perfect. People had that holiday spirit and it was fun."
"It was awesome," added Trellis employee Missy Smith. "We did really well. There were lots of people through here. It was just busy, busy, busy."
"There was a lot of foot traffic," agreed Jean Stockwell of Naylor Art, which is located next to Trellis. "There were more local people. Usually we sell a lot to people from Portland, but this year there were a lot more locals. A lot of people didn't even know we were here."
Lampe added that the one day made a strong impact on sales.
"People were going store to store," she explained. "People who normally don't shop here came through. It was very enjoyable."
Just up the street, The Creamery also noticed a spike in business on Saturday.
"Oh my gosh, it was really swamped," said Creamery employee Terry Leininger. "It was great. We were bursting at the seams the entire afternoon."
One of the focal points of the day was the Christmas tree lighting ceremony for the community Christmas tree in the parking lot of the White Salmon Boat Works at 230 E. Jewett Blvd. That was scheduled for 5 p.m.
"There must have been 200 people standing there waiting for the tree to be lit," Lampe said.
A variety of musicians, carolers, and other attractions also helped generate interest in the downtown area on Saturday.
With the sharp boost in customer traffic, support for making the event an annual happening appears to be unanimous.
John Mayo, president of the White Salmon Arts Council, said that was the goal.
"We hope so, if we can get the community support. If the community thinks this is important and it resonates, we'd like to make it an annual event," Mayo said. "But we need more help with funding. It's kind of an expensive event to put on, and citizens have to step up and spend more time and money in downtown White Salmon to make this come full circle."
Mayo stressed, however, that he was ecstatic about the way the inaugural event came off.
"I'm thrilled. It's always a real risk putting something on in White Salmon in the winter," he explained. "It could have dumped rain or snow on us, but it turned out to be the best day in weeks, weather-wise."
Rishell Graves, a member of the Arts Council, said the event went off without a hitch.
"I thought it was great, and the weather cooperated," Graves said.
White Salmon Mayor Roger Holen said he anticipated that, given the success of the event, it would be scheduled yearly.
"As long as I'm mayor, it sure better be held annually," Holen quipped. "I'm personally -- as well as on behalf of the city -- very pleased the artists coming to town have added another dimension to what this city is about."
Pam Morneault, owner of Collage of the Gorge, said the community celebration worked just as business owners had hoped.
"I felt that about one-quarter of the people who came were here for the first time, and they were local. This was very much of a local event, which was what we wanted," Morneault said. "I felt our community was really supporting us."
Morneault pointed out that while business has not been great so far this holiday season, sales were very strong on Saturday.
"It was a blur. I saw people carrying bags from all the stores. It was nice," she said.
Even businesses that did not focus on selling artwork or handmade goods said the number of people on the street helped boost their sales.
"I've been going through the receipts. We did well," said Roger Miller, owner of the Miller Sports liquor store downtown.
Holen said he liked the idea of having a big Christmas tree located in the downtown core.
"It was an excellent idea to move the tree away from Rhinegarten Park, which is a lovely place, to the center of town, which is a vital place," Holen explained.
"It seems like a great little plaza for it," Mayo said. "So many people came to the tree lighting. It was crowded and fun."