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November 28, 2012

Rochester sparkles during debut of Big, Bright Light Show

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Cecilia Waller, 4, of Oakland Township, looks in the window of Haigs Jewelers. They won the best window display at the the Big, Bright Light Show in downtown Rochester Nov. 26.

ROCHESTER — The sidewalks were packed with couples, families and groups of friends who all gathered in an updated downtown to take in Rochester’s Big, Bright Light Show and enjoy the 40th annual Lagniappe festival Nov. 26.

Lagniappe, which is Creole for “a little something extra,” was developed 40 years ago as a way for Rochester merchants to celebrate the holiday season by giving back to their customers in the form of discounts, giveaways and other special offers.

People went from store to store doing some holiday shopping and seeing what was being offered for Lagniappe. The wooden caterpillar tree ornaments and pencils with wooden figures on them from Green Baby, the free food samples from Holy Cannolis being offered at nearly every street corner, and the free glow rings from Lucido Fine Jewelry, were undoubtedly a hit with the crowds.

The line for the Simply The Best $10 Boutique was practically out the door. Emma VanSlembrouck, daughter of storeowners Jeff and Andrea VanSlembrouck, said she even had to turn the heat off because of all the body heat radiating from customers inside the shop.

“Business has been picking up a lot; people are getting curious now that the construction is over and they want to see what’s going on and what’s new downtown,” she said.

Sweet Island Yogurt, which opened in September, was also packed with patrons warming up with free coffee and hot chocolate and enjoying some purchased yogurt. Having never participated in the Lagniappe before and never having seen the Big, Bright Light Show, storeowner Bill Brandreth said he didn’t know what to expect.

“It’s been really exciting. I don’t think this place has ever been so packed,” he said. “I’m originally from Clarkston, so I’ve never experienced this downtown. It’s pretty cool.”

At 6:45 p.m. Mayor Stuart Bikson, Channel 7’s Dave LewAllen and even Santa Claus himself took to the stage on E. Fourth Street to kick off the Big, Bright Light Show program. Just before 7 p.m., they led thousands of event-goers in a “light the town” chant, followed by a dazzling display.

Eyes of all ages lit up with excitement as the buildings in downtown Rochester glimmered with more than 1.5 million points of holiday light for the debut of the seventh annual Big, Bright Light Show.

Jessica Walters, of Rochester, brought her three children — Grace, 9, Joey, 7, and Cooper, 5 — to see the light show once again this year.

“As long as its not raining or snowing, we’ll come,” she said. “It’s a fun way to kick off the holidays.”

Grace Walters said she loves the family tradition.

“I like all the pretty lights and how bright they are — especially the multi-colored ones,” she added.

Clisby and Jessica Jarrard bundled up their two sons — Clisby, 2, and Hayden, 6 months — and had a front-row spot on the sidewalk with their parents when Santa flipped the switch.

“We just moved back from Chicago to Rochester and we heard it was a lot of fun, so we wanted to come and check it out,” Jessica Jarrard said. “We’ve seen the lights in the past, driving through downtown when we would come to visit, but we have never come to this. It’s so beautiful.”

After the light debut, kids of all ages stood in line to share their Christmas lists with Santa, families enjoyed free horse-drawn carriage rides and had fun listening to the strolling barbershop chorus and carolers, and many hit the shops downtown to get a jump on their holiday shopping.

Following Lagniappe, the Big, Bright Light Show will run nightly from 6 p.m. to midnight through Jan. 6.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.