Chamber has big plans

Upcoming events include downtown iceless skaking rink

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It’s been quite the learning curve for Paris Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism executive Tanner Laughlin, but now that he has six months under his belt, Laughlin is looking forward to a busy end of the year and 2017.

Up first: Scare on the Square, set Monday. 

“We want to invite trick or treaters to come downtown and visit businesses that are participating,” Laughlin explained. He noted children are invited to begin the evening at Edgar County Bank where they will receive a trick or treat bucket. Several downtown businesses — as well as others in the community are participating, the director said.

First Farmers Bank, located on East Jasper Street, will be setting up a tent because they wanted to be a part of the event, Laughlin said.

Since becoming chamber director, Laughlin said he has been pleasantly surprised about the amount of foot traffic on the square on a daily basis. “Downtown Paris is a busy place,” he said, noting the more activities in the area, the more Paris area residents will get to know some of the shops and businesses on and around the square.

Laughlin said Trish Vitale and the Christmas in Paris committee are working diligently planning the fourth annual event, scheduled Saturday, Nov. 26.

“We’re excited about the addition of an iceless ice rink on Court Street between Main and Central,” he said. “It hasn’t been done here before and it will be available for three days.”

The committee is just beginning to look for sponsors for the lighted floats for the parade that climaxes the daylong event as well as other popular attractions.

Laughlin explained the lighted floats have been reserved but need sponsors. “We’ve had great support from business and industry in the past  and we are looking forward to another outstanding event.”

Among the activities still needing sponsors are the live reindeer and the scavenger hunt, which has become popular. 

Laughlin said the official Christmas in Paris tree elf, Randy Peterson, has a list of possible trees for use as the community Christmas tree. The lighting of the tree during the celebration is one of the highlights of the day.

Peterson said he has been scouting for trees, but emphasized the committee hopes to plant a permanent tree on the lawn of the Edgar County Courthouse.

“Planting the tree is the way to go, I’m convinced,” Peterson said, noting he is working with Dirt Poor Landscaping to find a tree that will be an addition to the lawn.

Another challenge, Peterson said, is knowing what’s under the courthouse lawn. He said there are bricks and concrete probably from work on the courthouse or perhaps when it was constructed. 

Laughlin said after Christmas in Paris, it will be full steam ahead for 2017. He hopes the Chamber Crawl will continue and is also planning a Guys Day Out to include a triathalon of bowling, golf and corn hole.

The annual banquet is tentatively scheduled Saturday, March 18, he said, and will once again have a St. Patrick’s Day theme. “We’re considering entertainment possibilities right now,” he said. 

“I’ve lived here for 28 years and I’ve learned more about what Paris has to offer these last months,” Laughlin observed. “There’s just so much out there that we just don’t take advantage of.”

The chamber office continues to be busy with visitors who stop by for a variety of reasons. “Sometimes they want to stop here because their grandparents came from here and they’ve never visited,” he said. “Sometimes they are just road tripping through the Midwest.”

Eventually, Laughlin hopes to have more of a selection of Paris postcards and other novelties. “Everyone that stops wants to take something,” he said. “The only postcard we have right now is of the courthouse. I hope we can add other landmarks.”

The director believes Paris has  so much going for it. “One of the biggest assets is our willingness to give,” he said. “Another is the people of all ages who believe in our community and want to help it to grow and thrive.”

Laughlin is considering actvities next summer. “My mom and dad tell me about a time when on the Fourth of July, Twin Lakes Park was filled to capacity,” he said. “I’d like to see that happen again.”

As for a dream event, Laughlin said he’d like to recognize the community’s heroes, a takeoff on the CNN Heroes. “We’re talking about people who provide service to others,” he said.

On top of all his chamber responsibilities, Laughlin is once again hosting “Home for the Holidays” concert Dec. 10 at the Paris Center of Fine Arts. Tickets will be $10 for adults and $5 for students. 

“We weren’t quite sold out last year, when it was held at the conclusion of Christmas in Paris,” he said. “We changed the date this year so anyone who wants to attend won’t have to choose between the parade and getting to the concert on time.”

Laughlin welcomes suggestions or questions concerning upcoming events.