Grand Rapids’ HollyJolly Takes ‘Buy Local’ Concept for Creative, Interactive Spin
Grand Rapids will take the concept of “buy local” for a new, ArtPrize-like twist this weekend when the HollyJolly invites holiday shoppers to the city for an interactive gift-buying Yuletide experience.
HollyJolly kicks off downtown on Friday with a Christmas community program and tree lighting and expands Saturday to retailers in other city neighborhoods. Participants will have use of a trolley service to help navigate between business districts.
But in a twist that echoes the city’s wildly popular ArtPrize competition, participants are encouraged to vote for their favorite window display from a field of 47 participating retailers.
Event co-creator Tommy Allen said the event’s primary goal is to spotlight downtown and other Grand Rapids neighborhoods like Eastown and Uptown as viable, walkable shopping destinations for West Michigan residents. But as an artist himself, Allen said he wanted to find a way to blend art with a new form of commerce.
“It’s a very different experience from, say, a hermetically sealed mall… it’s a new experience essentially to experience your city and see the windows decorated,” he said.
Participants can vote for their favorite window display from among 47 merchants until 6 p.m. Dec. 13. Instructions for how to vote will be available via literature at participating retailers and at HollyJollyGR.com.
Cash prizes of $500 will go to the people’s choice for best window display and the curator’s award. Organizers will also randomly select a voter to win an overnight stay at the JW Marriott Grand Rapids, and they’ll award an overnight stay at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel to a retailer who went above and beyond in its display entry.
The event in this way echoes ArtPrize, the art competition held all over the city each September that is judged by participants. Allen says the ArtPrize organization’s gift shop will participate in the window-display contest.
“We do have the ability for the public to intersect in something creative, and I think that’s what both of our missions are,” he said.
Sharon L. Evoy, executive director of the Grand Rapids Downtown Alliance, an event partner, said HollyJolly also has similarities to interactive contests like Grandwich, an interactive event earlier this year to determine the city’s best sandwich.
“We’re big on public voting over here,” Evoy said.
Allen said many participating merchants are designing window displays by re-interpreting what they do or sell. For example, a luggage seller has designed a South Pole-themed window with penguins, while an independent book store has stacked color-coded books to look like trees, he said.
“Going forward, I think it’s going to be one of those signature events for Grand Rapids where people will want to come downtown,” Allen said.
What do you think about what the HollyJolly is trying to do? Will it help encourage higher sales for local retailers?