Even though Ozzies moved to Naperville Plaza over 14 years ago, I have remained active in downtown Naperville events and organizations. I spent 6 years as the Riverwalk commissioner for the city and have also been a member of the Downtown Naperville Alliance (DNA) for many years. The Downtown Naperville Alliance, for those of you unfamiliar, is a committee under the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce that handles promotion and events in the downtown area. It was formed about 20 years ago and is supported by a special service area (SSA) tax of downtown properties.
Prior to the DNA’s formation, downtown Naperville had the Downtown Retail Council. Before that, it was the Downtown Merchants Association. Both of those organizations were voluntary and struggled for many years to get participation from enough downtown businesses and property owners. Of course, if you are old enough to remember downtown in the sixties and seventies, it bears little resemblance to what we have today!
Much smaller and old-fashioned, downtown Naperville was facing competition from new strip malls and the behemoth Fox Valley Shopping Mall—we were fighting for our lives! Downtown organizations not only helped the area survive and thrive, but started events that still draw crowds today. The Sidewalk Sale, Halloween Trick or Treat, and the Holiday Illumination are still around and going strong.
Some downtown events are no longer with us. Remember Dollar Days? It was in August was Sidewalk Sale Part 2: Even More Discounted!
We tried a farmer’s market and had a try Naperville First campaign. The Santa Train was another longtime event. We would rent a train from the Burlington line, sell tickets and entertain the families in each car until Santa would come through and say hello to all the kids. The train would go about halfway to Chicago and then return to town.
Then there is the Grand Illumination. That event, as it grew, was in my estimation what helped downtown turn the corner into what is is today. It would draw over a thousand people to see a parade and the arrival of Santa. Santa was Mayor Pradel and Mrs. Claus was Kathy Gross from Jan’s Gift Shop. Santa would flip a large switch and the lights all over downtown would magically come on.
I have often compared Naperville Plaza to the version of downtown I grew up with. Two grocery stores, the pharmacy, and all the other great shops we have here make it such a good shopping spot. And we too have our promotions and events:
Bring the whole family out to the Plaza for our seventh annual Fall Festival and have some good old-fashioned fun. Trick or treating, magic, candy, offers, giveaways and more! See you there!