Shoppers swarm Glitz & Garland

By Wayne Bryan Published November 7, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Nick Hillemann

Sandy Purifoy, left, and Sue Uchtman, both of Gurdon, look at Christmas decorations during the Glitz and Garland Holiday Shopping Event held Friday in Benton.

BENTON— Within the first hour of the third annual Glitz and Garland Holiday Shopping Event, which opened at noon Friday, more than 1,000 people from all over Arkansas entered the Benton Event Center to do some holiday shopping.

“It’s been exciting. Just look at the crowd over there,” Gary James, executive director of the Benton Area Chamber of Commerce, said while facing the Blush Boutique stall, which held dozens of eager shoppers. “It is great to see a local business like this have this kind of a start for the Christmas season. I wonder if the owner has ever had as big a crowd as this in her store at one time. And we are just starting.”

James is one of the key figures who promoted the idea of an event center in Benton, which was approved by voters two years ago. He said this will be a busy meeting place for businesses in the city, which in turn will enhance the image of the city and Saline County throughout Arkansas and beyond. That effort, he said, will stimulate economic development for the community.

As Christmas music played in the grand hall of the center, hundred of shoppers roamed the aisles looking for bargains. Beyond giving holiday business a boost and offering visitors lots of gift ideas, the event also benefits the Saline Memorial Health Foundation and the Benton Chamber’s activities.

Matt Brumley, director of the foundation, said the fees paid by the more than 60 vendors taking part in Glitz and Garland, admission fees from attendees and the money raised by a raffle of a new 2013 GMC Sierra pickup on Sunday afternoon at the event, will fund improvements at the hospital that include patient-room renovations and new medical equipment, as well as chamber activities during the year.

Each year, Everett Buick has donated a vehicle to be given away by the selection of one lucky ticket holder. The chamber and the foundation sold 500 tickets, at $100 each, for a chance at the car. On Friday, 10 tickets were selected, and Sunday, each of the ticket holders was given a key, and whoever had the key that could start the truck took it home.

Rebecca Jones, marketing and communications director for Saline Memorial Hospital, said the vehicle was won by Sue Willard of Benton, who had the working key.

Jones said the estimated 5,000 to 5,500 people who paid $5 to enter the event made up the largest crowd yet.

Meanwhile, this was the third major community event held at the center since it opened Oct. 1. Steve Joran, facilities manager for the center, said events, both public and private, are booked at the center through the middle of next year.

Upcoming events include an antique show, a banquet by law enforcement personnel from around the state, and holiday and Super Bowl parties.

“There are also more than 30 weddings booked for the center,” Jordan said. “And we are getting calls every day.”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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