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Galena Repackages Tourism Effort

Business Group Seeks to Expand the Retail Cycle by Several Months

Emily Klein

Dubuque Telegraph-Herald

December 9, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald.]

GALENA, Ill. - The city of Galena has made an extra effort this year to draw tourists during the winter, usually a slow season for local businesses.

Old fashioned lamp posts wrapped in red-and-white ribbon line Main Street and storefronts are adorned with greenery, bows, ribbons and lights.

But in order to drum up more business, the town is going beyond tinsel and holly berries.

The city hosted a "Candy Cane Lane" weekend in November when Santa arrived as part of a holiday parade and local merchants handed out candy canes. Last weekend was the annual Mistletoe Ball.

This weekend is the "Holiday Windows in Motion" event on Main Street. Bill Heinz, a member of the Downtown Business Association and owner of Galena Teddy Bear Co. and Friends, will be dressed as the Grinch and his friend will be dressed as Max the Dog while they play chess on display in the store window.

The town will light up during the luminaria weekend, Dec. 16 to 18.

The parade, luminaries and windows in motion are all new events for Galena, organized primarily by the newly developed Galena Downtown Business Association.

The group was created when several business people joined forces to let customers know their stores were still open during road construction in May. Now members of the association work together to draw business throughout the year.

"We're doing what we can to expand our retail community from a five- or six-month cycle to nine or 10 months," Heinz said.

There will be carolers in the streets of Galena throughout the coming weekends, and with the addition of the new public, outdoor ice-skating rink, visitors have plenty to do. One of the bed and breakfasts will even roast chestnuts one weekend in Washington Park.

But is this enough to draw in the customers?

Heinz said there was a definite increase in sales during this year's Thanksgiving weekend compared to last year, but despite strong efforts by the association, sometimes Mother Nature proves to be the biggest competition.

Temperatures that fall below zero are not exactly welcoming. Still, the association is looking ahead and with weekend activities lining the calendar, Galena's businesses are banding together to make the most of the season.

Pete Kieffer, owner of the Country Craft Store in Galena, said he also has seen an increase in business. Even during last weekend's snow storm, Kieffer said customers braved the weather and stayed in the store well past 6 p.m. The planned weekend activities are likely the source of the increased traffic in the stores, he said.

"I think it will get better every year if they continue it," Kieffer said. "Like anything that starts, it takes a few years to build it up."

The efforts of the association likely will go well past Christmas time, Heinz said. A February Mardi Gras and March wine lovers weekend already are in the plans.