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The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

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Window decorating contest brings Florence together

Treasure Franklin

As the holiday season approaches, businesses downtown are beginning to decorate their storefronts as part of the Downtown Florence Alliance’s quarterly Window Decorating Contest. 

Started by the DFA, the competition serves as a way to beautify the downtown area and create more intrigue amongst the local community when they visit shops and businesses. 

“The objective is really to express that downtown is an invitation for students, faculty and everyone downtown to truly engage with one another,” said Chris Stangel, the Executive Director of the DFA. “It’s an opportunity for community growth.”

Committees from the DFA meet to vote on which storefronts have created the most thematic and novel displays. The contest is kept friendly to preserve the intention for community-building and growth.

Decorations are usually based seasonally, and though many businesses participate year-round, the contest generally has its most participants in the winter quarter. 

“For the holidays, for Christmas, for everything around that, they really put their creative thought caps on and just run with it,” Stangel said. “It’s nostalgic, but it’s also forward-looking in terms of the possibility and the coming together. I would say that it’s probably our biggest, most flamboyant expression of the year.”

For store-owners, the draw of participating in the competition is partially because of getting to create festive displays, but it is also largely due to the interactions that are possible when the decorations are in place. Many businesses even have special events to draw in more of the community.

“It’s like a handshake,” Stangel said. “People come in after seeing the storefront and want to ask about it. It starts a dialogue, a conversation, and it’s very natural that way. Then, it’s just a matter of meeting.”

Corina Calise, the owner of a new bakery downtown called Banqet Patisserie, has never participated in a competition like this one, but she is eager to take part and engage with the community. 

“This is totally new [to me], and it’s exciting!” said Calise. “I’m really very excited about it.” 

Calise has not decided on Banqet Patisserie’s theme for the winter season, but she is excited to decorate her storefront soon. She hopes the display will be engaging for students who come downtown. To further this engagement, the bakery’s hours of operation are expanding on Sundays to create a welcoming study space for students. If the change goes well, Calise is open to expanding their hours further on multiple nights during the week. 

Another business that is planning to participate is Stella and Goose, an art studio that represents over fifty artists, which is owned by Lisa Wallace and Rebecca Hudson. Though they have not taken part in the competition before, they are in the process of decorating for the holiday season and look forward to the connection the decorations build within the community.

“The faces looking in the window make me so happy,” said Wallace. “I think this is a magical time of year, and looking at artwork is good for everybody, whether people buy something or not. Our windows allow people to look in and see the artwork, even if they can’t come in, or if we’re not open. It’s just fun to share the art. We love our artists!”

For the community, the contest livens up the downtown area and brings more intrigue when walking downtown or shopping. Stangel has noticed more students from the University of North Alabama coming to partake in the festivities as well, which he believes can provide peaceful time away from students’ studies and stresses. 

“When you need a break, this is a nice invitation to come down,” Stangel said. “You can stop off in a coffee shop and enjoy some study time here, discuss a class project or meet with some of your professors. You can go check out the different shops and get some of your holiday shopping done. You can multitask down here in a way that’s connective, where you’re coming together as a community.” 

Drawing people into Florence’s local businesses aids in keeping revenue circulating within the Shoals instead of simply buying from large corporations. 

“The dollar that’s spent in our downtown with our small businesses stays in our community more than any other dollar that’s spent,” Stangel said. “You’re really helping to preserve the creativity, the vitality and the history of this place. Otherwise, these storefronts would be empty, and that would be a sad story to tell. I don’t want to tell that story, so we work hard with the business owners and the community to make sure that vitality is there.”

More than anything, however, the competition aids in building ties to the community. 

“One of the things that I think, with busy lives, we miss a lot is opportunities for natural and community connection,” Stangel said. “We try to build that into the infrastructure here through the organization, but also through what our storefronts are doing competition.”

Stangel encourages everyone in the community to visit downtown Florence in the coming weeks to see the festive storefronts, get into the holiday spirit and connect with the community.

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About the Contributors
Kelley Peters
Kelley Peters, Managing Editor
Kelley is a junior from Tupelo, Miss. who is majoring in English literature with a minor in applied linguistics. She is currently Managing Editor for The Flor-Ala. She has loved reading for as long as she can remember, which developed her love of storytelling and the English language. Her career goal is to become an English professor at a university. She was previously a volunteer writer in the Fall of 2021, became a Staff Writer in January of 2022 and moved to being News Editor in January of 2023.
Treasure Franklin
Treasure Franklin, Deputy Chief Photographer
Treasure Franklin is a junior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Applied Behavior Analysis. She is a member of the LaGrange Society, Student Government Association (SGA), and is in the Cole Honors College, as well as the Presidential Mentor's Academy. She is currently serving as a Staff Photographer; she has previously served as the website editor, and she has been a volunteer photographer/writer with The Flor-Ala since August of 2021.

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