BENNINGTON - Local officials are hoping "Small Business Saturday" will attract the same enthusiasm from local shoppers as Black Friday typically does.

Shoppers typically flock en masse to big-box retail chains early on the Friday after Thanksgiving for once-a-year bargains. The day kicks off the traditional holiday shopping season. The competition among larger retailers has even pushed the start of sales events into Thanksgiving day.

But in Vermont and elsewhere, shoppers are being encouraged to patronize local stores, too. Small Business Saturday efforts are now in the third year. The Vermont Downtown program has issued a "50/50 Challenge," which encourages Vermonters to do at least half of their holiday shopping from Vermont-based retailers, artisans and craftspeople.

Doing so helps local communities thrive, according to the state Department of Economic Housing and Community Development. Commissioner Noelle MacKay said money spent at locally owned stores tends to remain in the community. In fact, for every dollar spent in a Vermont downtown, more than 87 cents stays in the local community, compared to just 38 cents from purchases with national retailers. John Shannahan, executive director of the Better Bennington Corp., said his organization has organized several family events on Saturday to highlight the day and bring families into Bennington's downtown. "Small Business Saturday is a powerful event that allows everyone to have a lot of fun while participating in an activity that really strengthens our community.


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The statistics regarding the effects of shopping locally are astounding, and there isn't a better way to celebrate the holiday season than by celebrating your own community," he said.

Downtown Bennington will be celebrating Small Business Saturday with "Our Hometown Holiday" events. Shannahan said there will be several drawings throughout the day at various stores beginning at noon. Entry forms will be available beginning Wednesday at Evans' News, Panache and Jay's Art Shop and Frame Gallery, but winners must be present to win.

Children can also visit with Santa Claus at the Better Bennington Corporation welcome center between 10 a.m. and noon. The Bennington County Choral Society, The Chamber Singers and the Brass and Woodwind Players will also be caroling and in shops and restaurants on Main Street, Shannahan said.