pumpkin park

The cancellation of the traditional "Sights and Sounds of Christmas" will be offset this year by the first-ever "Mistletoe Market" at the London Community Center in November.

Julie Rea, executive director of London Downtown, announced the event to members of the London City Tourism Commission during their monthly meeting on Monday. Rea said she had already scheduled the use of the community center for that weekend, which falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

That date also coincides with Small Business Saturday, on Nov. 27 - the weekend after Thanksgiving. Rea said many of the vendors who usually set up for Sights and Sounds had contacted London Downtown, asking that some event be established in lieu of the cancellation of the usual venture.

Rea added that a luncheon celebrating the success of events hosted by London Downtown is scheduled for Nov. 2. That event will recognize local realtor, city council member and London Downtown member Daniel Carmack as Volunteer of the Year.

"This is the second straight year that someone from London has been recognized," Rea added. "We're also celebrating the Redbud Ride as being named the Best Main Street event."

London Downtown's most recent event was Cider Night, held at Farmers Market on Oct. 9. Rea said the event had great attendance and was deemed successful by the 40-plus vendors participating. Many of those vendors have expressed interest in setting up at future events.

Other events are also well underway through the end of the year.

City Tourism Executive Director Chris Robinson said the Pumpkin Park (at Town Center Park) was completed last week with pumpkins and fall decor and has already been a popular site for fall pictures and activities. It will also host some events - Rhythm Dance Studio has scheduled a performance for Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. and London Elementary is hosting an event on Friday, Oct. 22. Robinson added that Thursday is a busy night with the Laurel County Public Library also hosting its "Trick or Read" event that evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Other upcoming events include the Boo on Main, set for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown London on Saturday, Oct. 30. The event always brings out a huge crowd of costumed characters from infants to elderly for the event. Currently 14 businesses are registered to participate, with Robinson adding that more are hoped to participate this year.

Christmas on Main plans are underway as well. The nighttime parade is set for Friday, Dec. 3 in downtown London.

"We've already set the theme for this year. We've always had good luck with movies, and we've done it twice, so we're doing "Christmas at the Movies, Part 3," Robinson said.

The Community Center is filling up quickly for Christmas gatherings, said executive director Brittany Cradic, with more expected to be booked within the next few weeks. Cradic said the high usage during the holiday season would generate new revenues.

Other projects overseen by the tourism board include the pickleball courts at Whitley Branch Veterans Park. Parks Supervisor Mackey Williams said the shipments of equipment have been delayed, thus hampering the completion of the project.

"We're having trouble getting the nets and posts," Williams said. "Just as an example, we're still waiting on two 16x24 shelters. We ordered them eight months ago."

However, the pickleball project is still underway and is expected to bring competitors into the area - and hopefully, create another tourism event for the community.

Williams also said the disc golf course at Whitley Branch park is a popular attraction. In fact, the tournament for Saturday, Nov. 6 is sold out with 98 persons registered to play and a waiting list for potential openings. Williams added that he has ordered signage that the park will be closed that day for the tournament.

Levi Jackson Park Superintendent Joey Engle added that Camp Spook will be held this Saturday, Oct. 23. That event is not considered as a public event, and Engle said the gates to the campground would be closed from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. to allow campers to participate inside the campground. He added that booking continues at the campground, with several people already booking spots for next season.

Starr Handy conducted Monday's meeting, first explaining that there are currently two seats on the board that are questionable - a mixup in the dates of term expirations created the situation. Those two seats include that one of chairman Steve Berry and a seat previously held by Troy House. House received a letter of reappointment to the board in November 2020 with a three-year term; however, in July he received another letter informing him that his term had expired and that seat was filled by Phil Smith. Handy said that due to the confusion on those members, neither Berry nor Smith could vote in Monday's session.

Robinson then said that plans to comply with the SPGE laws governing tourism commissions (and other boards) were still underway. He said since the city tourism had been connected with the city government's bank account, the board would have to set up a separate account. With two of the seven seats currently in question for term expirations, Handy appointed board members Bill Dezarn, himself and Mike Holt to sign checks. The city tourism board will retain Abner & Cox for bookkeeping, with Greene & McCowan providing payroll services.

Job descriptions for positions paid for from the restaurant tax were previously approved, with Robinson adding that two security guard positions at Levi Jackson Park had been omitted and needed to be added to the list.

The City of London Tourism Commission meets the third Monday of each month at the London Community Center in the downstairs meeting room at 5:30 p.m.

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