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Taste of Christmas

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HAPPY HO-HO-HOLIDAYS:Santa Clause strolls is driven through the streets of Downtown Peru as residents watch the jolly man.
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LINING UP:Sightseersline up outside of Santa's house during the Taste of Christmas spectacle Wednesday evening.

BY Paige Conley - pconley@perutribune.com

While Thanksgiving is just around the corner, Miami County residents received a taste of Christmas Wednesday evening during Peru’s annual Downtown Christmas Open House.

The event, a local tradition, kicked off at 4 p.m. this year with residents walking to well over two dozen businesses to get their papers stamped by employees to be entered into a drawing for a chance to win $1,000 worth of gift certificates.

According to Miami County Chamber of Commerce President Sandy Chittum, the drawing for the winners is going to take place Monday morning at which time two individuals will win a $250 gift certificate and five individuals will win a $100 gift certificate.

As for those individuals who supported the local businesses they visited by purchasing some of their items, they will be entered into a special drawing for a $20 gift certificate as well as the general drawing for a chance to win twice.

“They go into the general drawing then we pick those out and have another special drawing,” Chittum said. “We want them to have an opportunity to win both if they can.”

Chittum said the Christmas Open House is an opportunity for residents to visit their local businesses and have a chance to connect with people they may not otherwise meet.

“This is all about the businesses and all they do to prepare for this is just amazing,” Chittum said. “I’ve got to give them a pat on the back.”

According to Chittum, the businesses are the ones who really take ownership of the event because of all they do to make the evening festive and fun for citizens including decorating their windows and the inside of their building, handing out treats and having little drawings of their own.

In fact, the stamping hours were extended this year in an effort to give residents more time in each business to look around, shop and talk with the individuals who make it all happen.

While Chittum hasn’t had a chance to speak with many business owners yet on their evening, she’s sure they all averaged their normal 300 to 500 people with how many individuals were coming into the Chamber of Commerce office.

“It was a wonderful evening,” Chittum said. “Even though it was cold, it wasn’t windy. It was absolutely perfect.”

The evening wasn’t all stamping though as residents took a break for the Christmas parade that featured snowmen, elves and the big man himself, Santa Clause.

The parade crowd spilled into the streets as residents braved the cold to watch the festivities with their loved ones and enjoy a cup of cocoa from several local businesses.

Following the parade, children had the opportunity to visit with Santa and watch the lighting of the big tree on the courthouse lawn decorated by Miami Cass REMC.

Miami County residents came from all over to experience the evening including individuals from surrounding counties and even as far away as Fort Wayne.

During the procession of citizens going in and out of the Chamber of Commerce office, Chittum said she was stopped by a couple from Fort Wayne who told her they came all the way to Peru to witness the small-town parade.

“To see this couple that came from Fort Wayne who came to see the parade, it just made my heart sing,” Chittum said.

However, that’s exactly what the evening is about which is to not only draw residents to their local businesses, but to draw others to the community.

“You want to showcase your community and the holidays and I think we did it,” Chittum said.

In an effort to continue to showcase Peru’s holiday spirit, the Santa House will be receiving a makeover on its interior.

According to Chittum, she has her master elf Bryan Maggart, owner of The Merc, on the job along with several other of Santa’s helpers to paint and redecorate the inside.

Residents can expect to see the new and improved digs before Thanksgiving.

While the only thing that changed this year was the event time, the group is already thinking about next year and how to spruce things up.

“We’re looking at what we can do next year to add just a little more festivity downtown,” Chittum said.

Chittum said there aren't any definitive plans for next year, there is talk about adding more lights downtown among other things.

Either way, the main focus is that everyone has fun and enjoys themselves during the event which is exactly what happened Wednesday night.

Chittum said the evening was a huge success and couldn’t have done it without the help of the businesses, the courthouse, the city, Miami Cass REMC, Peru Utilities for putting up the wreaths, garland and banners and Bowman’s Towing for bringing in the Santa House.

Residents can stay tuned for Monday when they’ll be calling the winners of the drawing as well as announcing the winners of the businesses with the best windows.