Woollybear Festival is big business for small businesses

By Melanie Williamson

For many residents, the Woollybear Festival brings thoughts of massive crowds and endless traffic, but for local businesses it means an amazing one-day opportunity to get their name and products in front of tens of thousands of people. Businesses along Main Street between Liberty Avenue and the train tracks get the opportunity to set up tables and tents in front of their stores for a massive sidewalk sale. Jill Crandall, owner of The Silly Goose, shared, “Woollybear gives us a great boost on a Sunday after the season has ended…we are able to sell inventory we are no longer selling.”

Many local businesses take advantage of the massive captive audience by participating in the Woollybear parade. Sheryl Wolcott, owner of Shore Nutrition is a new business owner in Vermilion. Her shop, located in South Shore Plaza, sells smoothies and teas while promoting a healthier lifestyle, but being so new she decided to get creative and make a float to get her name out there. She shared that it had a very positive impact on her business, and she is already planning for next year.

When Dick Goddard first came up with the idea for the Woollybear Festival, he shared that he wanted to create an event that would give local nonprofits an opportunity to raise money, and that he certainly did. From fish sandwiches and French fries to basket raffles and t-shirts, local nonprofits set up all throughout the festival to raise money and promote their mission to people visiting Vermilion possibly for the first time. Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce  Sandy Coe shared that allowing local nonprofits to set up paid parking around town has been very beneficial for both the organizations and the festival goers.

The Woollybear Festival is put on each by the Vermilion Chamber of Commerce led by Executive Director Sandy Coe. She has shared that it takes months of planning and hundreds of volunteers to make the Woollybear Festival such an amazing success each year. Coe shared that this festival “puts Vermilion on the map and floods people into town.” She went in to say she spoke with several businesses about how it went. Swan Creek shared that it was one of their best days all year, and Szabo Apparel stated that business went crazy after their Woollybear T-shirt was shown on Fox 8. The Woollybear is just one of the many events the chamber plans each year in an effort to promote Vermilion and local businesses. Crandall echoed the response of many other local businesses in that the chamber does a phenomenal job.

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