WESTERLY — Despite the enormous underground construction project underway in Dixon Square, the stroll must go on.
The 21st annual Holiday Stroll and Luminaria throughout downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck, an event co-sponsored by the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Association, will take place just as it has in decades past — horse-drawn carriage rides, lighted streets, cookies and all.
“It’s an obstacle we will overcome,” said a good-natured Erica Agnello on Monday afternoon, referring to the town project to upgrade the century-old stormwater drainage system downtown. “And we’ll have all sorts of things going on.”
Agnello, who coordinates events for the chamber, said high school carolers will sing songs of the season, local non-profits will set up information booths, shopkeepers will offer specials, and hot chocolate and cookies will be plentiful Wednesday night during the stroll, which traditionally attracts hundreds of holiday shoppers to the area.
At Maize ‘N’ Manna Wholefoods on High Street, owner Susan Ryan Champouillon was busy making packets of her popular vegan cocoa mix on Monday, as she prepared for the event.
“They make great stocking stuffers or teacher’s gifts,” said Champouillon. “And I’m fully stocked with wonderful spices and nuts … pecans and pignoli nuts … for all your holiday baking and treats.”
“I always look forward to this stroll,” Champouillon said. “This is my sixth year and we always love it.”
Champouillon said she will also host a visit from Laurie Gibson from Pure Haven Essentials, who will share the lastest in toxin-free lotions and cosmetics.
A few doors down at Perks & Corks, naturalist and author Keith Cowley is planning to have a book signing and wildlife art sale. Cowley has written a new book, “Body as Teacher, Nature as Preacher,” and will have copies on hand, along with some art work.
Another local author, L. M. Browning, will also hold a book signing. Browning, the author of “The Castoff Children,” will be at Savoy Bookshop and Café from 6 to 8 p.m. Elissa Englund-Sweet, event coordinator for the bookshop, said Browning will personalize her book for buyers, and the shop “will even wrap it for you.”
Across the street at the United Theatre, strollers can stop in to catch a viewing of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” or “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” and sample some free cocoa and cookies. The movies will be shown every hour and admission is free.
“We also have a photo booth this year,” said Agnello. “Yale-New Haven-Westerly Hospital is setting up a photo booth.”
Wendy Brown, president of the Downtown Business Association, said the photo booth will be set up inside her office, The Brown Group Realty, at 18 High St.
“It will be really quick and easy,” said Agnello. “You can have your picture taken… with a holiday background... in under a minute.”
“There will be all sorts of wonderful things going on,” said Brown, adding that a variety of crafters plan to set up shop inside the Westerly Land Trust building a few doors down on High Street.
Additionally, WBLQ is planning a live remote broadcast outside in front of the Post Office during the stroll, and there may even be a visit from a certain North Pole resident.
“We are expecting a visit from Santa,” said Agnello. “So, keep an eye out… he’ll be roaming the streets to greet you and spread holiday cheer.”