SHIPSHEWANA — Known for its annual summer flea market, Shipshewana is now trying to become a winter destination.
The town of 500 is hosting its fifth annual Light Parade this Saturday. It will be the start of a holiday season that includes Chocolate Day on Nov. 19, a display of gingerbread houses starting Nov. 21, Santa’s arrival Dec. 10 and the Shipshewana Ice Festival Dec. 28 through 30.
Ice Festival coordinator Levi King said having events in the area brings people out and encourages them to stay and shop. Last year 4,000 people attended the Light Parade.
“It has a very good return on the investment,” he said.
Chuck Wray, chairman of the light parade, said the area offers unique shopping that people can’t find in the bigger cities. Many people come because of the events are free and the large attendance helps local businesses.
“A lot of times people like to do something other than the big malls,” he said.
Gary Zehr, interim director of the Shipshewana Retail Merchants Association, said the organization is encouraging retailers to put up more lights this year.
“Sometimes they think we’re a little early, but we’re trying to catch that early shopper,” he said.
Before organized events like the Light Parade and Ice Festival, merchants did things individually. Many of them will give out coupons during the Light Parade, including King, who owns Jo Jo’s Pretzels. He said the store will be filled until close.
King said another detail that separates shopping in Shipshewana as opposed to the big stores is that the items are made in the area, or at the very least, the country.
“People would rather have that than things made in China,” he said.
For information on the Light Parade, call 888 448-4725 or go to www.BlueGateTheater.com.
Other holiday events that are happening in the area:
Goshen: Shop Outside the Box Sundays start this weekend. On Nov. 13, 20, 27 and Dec. 4, 11, 18 Goshen-area stores will be open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. These merchants include Better World Books, Electric Brew, Gateway Cellar Winery, Graber Designs Gallery, Gutierrez Bakery, Jules Boutique, Maple City market, Nut Shoppe, Pampered Pet Boutique, Ten Thousand Villages and Venture.
Middlebury: Das Dutchman Essenhaus will have a “Tour of Trees” in which visitors will be able to vote on their favorite decorated tree, as well as visit the various stores. The event runs 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 18 and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 19. For information, contact Hannah@essenhaus.com or call 800 455-9471.
Nappanee: Shop late at the Midnight Madness Sale. Stop by downtown Nappanee starting at 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Dec. 9 to get your holiday shopping started. Or just hit the countryside stores at 4 p.m. through midnight. Call the Nappanee Area Chamber of Commerce at 773-7812 for more information.
Wakarusa: The city will host an open house for its merchants on from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 19. For information, go to wakarusachamber.com. Not all stores will be open that late, but many will offer special discounts and offers. Contact Deb Shively for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 862-4344.