Downtown Exeter Opens House to Kick Off Your Holiday Shopping
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Spreading Christmas CheerDecember 2015
By Fache Desrochers
Whatever winter holiday you and your family celebrate, one thing is true across so many cultures: December is a time for coming together, spreading cheer and perhaps most of all, countering the cold and dark of early evenings with cozy clothes, goodwill toward humanity and the annual delight of a street festooned with lights, decorations and bustling shoppers. And for 24 holiday seasons running, the small Central Valley town of Exeter has not only understood this truth about the holiday season, but excitedly embraced it with a level of festive joy, hard work and community cohesiveness that might just rival Santa’s village itself.
One of Central California’s most celebrated cities, the charming foothill town of Exeter has long been a haven for those who value local offerings of every type. From curated retail to restaurants whose menus boast a mouthwatering selection of Valley products, Exeter has long strived to foster a municipal culture where everyone is welcome and everything is appreciated, but it is area-code artisanship that enjoys the most cherished elevation. “As a city, we really encourage our community members to shop locally and patronize our local businesses,” explains Exeter’s Chamber of Commerce head Sandy Blankenship. “And there is a certain level of community pride to that – a personal touch that you can’t find with the big-box retailers. After all, small businesses are the backbone of America.”
Started by a group of local merchants nearly a quarter century ago, Exeter’s Holiday Open House began with a simple goal that is still intact today: to foster a culture of celebration, cater to holiday shoppers with extended hours, and encourage the community to come out, be together and have a good time. The Open House always kicks off on the first Thursday after Thanksgiving, and recurs on each subsequent Thursday in December until the week of Christmas. This year’s inaugural event falls on Dec. 3, returns on Dec. 10 and closes on Dec. 17. In honor of the Holiday Open House, Exeter’s retail businesses extend their hours until 9 pm on these Thursday nights, creating the perfect opportunity for people to have a few bonus hours for holiday shopping and a dose of wintertime cheer. “But it’s not just a shopping atmosphere, it’s a social one,” says Blankenship. “A lot of us locals will do our shopping during the rest of the week, but then just come out to see everybody during the evening.”
“The social aspect is my favorite part,” says Blankenship. “It’s so nice to get out and catch up with people that you don’t always get to run into.”
Even if you visit Exeter’s Holiday Open House without the intention to shop, you might find yourself more compelled than usual by a high street whose retail storefronts strike a selection of merchandise that is nearly perfectly balanced in distribution. “It’s great because a lot of our retailers work together and communicate so they aren’t competing with each other with the same merchandise,” Blankenship says. “They know that when we work together, everybody does well.”
Exeter’s Holiday Open House also features free antique fire truck rides, carolers and the iconic presence of Santa Claus in Mixter Park for the delight (and photo opportunities) of Valley children of all ages. And with one of the most exciting emerging dining scenes in the Valley, a bite at one of Exeter’s local eateries is the perfect, walking-distance bookend to your Holiday Open House outing.
Although it only happens once a year, Exeter’s Holiday Open House is not just a tradition, but a kind of annual commemoration of the values that this small town upholds year-round: a cohesive, supportive community, a valuation of locally sourced goods and services, and a readiness to come together and celebrate. “There’s a wonderful sense of pride and generosity here in town,” says Blankenship. “Business owners, building owners, the city…everyone pitches in to get ready.”
Somehow, despite the chilly weather (or perhaps because of it), there are few December activities more delightful than strolling up an avenue that is bustling with the sights and sounds of the holidays. From cheeks flushed pink with cold, to the notes of familiar songs, to lights that twinkle all the more merrily against a winter night, it’s really the little things that come together to make the holiday season so special. And with the attention to festive detail, dedication to local products and culture of small-town generosity, Exeter’s Holiday Open House is this community’s annual gift that keeps on giving.
Downtown Exeter Open House • www.exeterchamber.com
Free fire truck rides, carolers and Santa
Dec. 3, 10 and 17 until 9pm