Thanks to a large contingent of shoppers from Western Carolina University, the opening weekend of the 29th annual Dillsboro Lights and Luminaries event was one of the best in years, according to town merchants.
Hundreds of WCU faculty, staff and students convened in the town Friday, Dec. 7, for WCU Night at the event.
“We had a fantastic night,” said Lisa Potts, co-owner of Nancy Tut’s Christmas Shop and co-president of the Dillsboro Merchants Association.
“Probably about 75 percent of our sales that evening were from WCU students and our sales were double over last year,” said Potts. “There were more people in town than I had seen in years. We sold almost our entire stock of WCU ornaments and several students came back Saturday night as well and bought more.”
An event of the Dillsboro/WCU Partnership, a universitywide effort designed to match WCU expertise and resources with Dillsboro’s challenges and needs, WCU Night was organized to kick-start the festival by providing free activities for children and special discounts for WCU faculty, staff and students.
Approximately 40 students from Cullowhee Valley School participated in a Sing-along with Susan Belcher, wife of WCU Chancellor David Belcher. Katee Johnson, music teacher at CVS, worked with the students to learn the songs, and Belcher led a large crowd of the children, parents and community members singing in the courtyard on Front Street as one of the opening activities for WCU Night.
Penelope Gobar, CVS art teacher, donated dozens of stained-glass-themed snowflakes that her students created for decoration and display in the courtyard during the sing-along. Claymates, a paint-your-own-pottery experience, offered free ornaments and face painting, courtesy of WCU art students, and Dogwood Wellness provided free activities including a fire pit for making s’mores and materials to make ornaments.
WCU faculty, staff and students were eligible to enter into a raffle drawing for two prizes, and Santa and Mrs. Claus drew the winning tickets at Dillsboro Town Hall.
Caitlin Smith, a WCU freshman from Trinity majoring in marketing, won the first-place prize of $500 in gift certificates. The second-place prize, a collection of gift certificates worth $250, went to Layton Turner, a freshman from Waxhaw majoring in business with a concentration in entrepreneurship. “I am going to do all my Christmas shopping in Dillsboro, and put the gift cards to good use because I am a broke college kid,” Turner said.
The festival continues this weekend, Friday, Dec. 14, and Saturday, Dec. 15 from dusk until 9:30 p.m. with more free entertainment, children’s activities and unique holiday shopping.