SHERIDAN — For many, the holiday season isn’t official until the Christmas Stroll. This year is number 18 for the Main Street ritual, complete with hot chili and fireworks. Long gone Sheridan natives who returned home for the weekend joined the usual crowd for four hours of socializing, shopping and charity Friday night.
Strollers sported a diverse plethora of winter fashion including colorful hats, gloves, scarves and sometimes, even knee-high boots with a fuzzy trim. A unifying accessory of the night was a stroll button designed by Big Horn Elementary second-grader Riley Green.
Stroll buttons, purchased for $5 at many locations throughout town, draw customers into local stores by tantalizing potential shoppers with the possibility of winning cash.
Each button features a unique number. Starting at the stroll, and through the end of December, approximately 100 participating businesses will have a random number displayed. If a stroller’s button corresponds with the displayed number, they win $50 on the spot. A shopper has to find the winning number, which is more often than not cleverly disguised in plain view in the back of a shop surrounded by merchandise with gift potential.
All strollers can also enter at each business for a weekly drawing to win $100 in Chamber Bucks, which work as cash at any business that’s a member of the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce. All button numbers, along with all weekly drawing entries will be complied Dec. 30 for a grand prize drawing of $1000 in Chamber Bucks.
Shop owners showed off their wares with festive seasonal decorations as shoppers squeezed through narrow aisles browsing potential gifts, searching for the winning stroll button number and greeting other patrons.
Denise Mueller, a sales associate at Cottonwood Kitchen Shop, greeted a steady stream of customers at the store door. She said getting ready for the stroll is a lot of work, but it pays off.
“The stressful part is getting ready for it, but once it’s here, it’s really cool to see all the people and be out in the exciting part of it,” Mueller said.
Donna Czyzynski recently moved to Sheridan from California to settle down for retirement.
She took a break from browsing around Little Willow Traders to reflect on the robust turnout of strollers.
“I expected to see the whole community here, but this is just wonderful. I just can’t get over it — what they do for the town and the people,” Czyzynski said.
It wasn’t just the shops that were hopping with people. The sidewalks along Main Street were packed elbow to elbow with lines of foot traffic. The street, which was closed to vehicles— except for a hay ride, the Sheridan Trolley and a shuttle-sized BNSF train engine — was only slightly less crowded.
Sydni Krosschell, a 2011 graduate of Sheridan High School, returned home from Texas recently for a short visit before she moves again to Colorado for college. She stopped to catch up with some old friends at the intersection of Main Street and Grinnell Plaza.
“I just got back into town, so I’m seeing everyone from high school . It’s nice to see all of my friends I don’t see all the time,” Krosschell said, indicating that while she’s attended the Stroll for years, this time, it was with a new set of eyes.
“I think it’s more exciting being far away and coming back,” she said. “When I think of home and Thanksgiving, I think of the Stroll. It naturally comes into my mind.”
Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus held office hours at City Hall to begin their annual public relations tour and conference with next month’s clients.
Courtney Moyer waited in a long, yet swift moving line with her husband, Steve, and 1-year-old son, Ezekiel, for about 20 minutes to see the Man in the Red Suit.
When it was time for Ezekiel to be introduced to the Clauses, his nerves got the best of him.
“He screamed,” Moyer said with a laugh.
Hot food booths made steam above Grinnell Plaza, where strollers enjoyed the staple Stroll dinner: chili, soup and hot chocolate. Nonprofit groups used the food court as a stronghold to recruit resources for goodwill.
Destiny Smith, 17, volunteered as a server for the People Assistance Food Bank. All night, she dolled out ham and bean soup and hot chocolate for unspecified donations.
“It makes me feel good to come out and help the community,” Smith, a student at Normative Services Inc., said.
By 7 p.m., the clear plastic donation boxes were stuffed to the brims.
“There’s a lot of goodwill in Sheridan,” Smith said. “People are generous.”
The Christmas Stroll entails the major wickets of a bustling community: economics, charity, socialization and entertainment. The event culminated with a bang — literally — when fireworks filled the night sky.