Lights are glowing all over Pine Bluff, and shoppers are out looking for special gifts.
Jefferson Regional Medical Center switched on its Christmas tree's festive lights Thursday night while downtown Pine Bluff hosted its first holiday Ladies' Night Out: Shop-Sip-Dine-Repeat in the historic Main and Barraque area near the Jefferson County Courthouse.
"The annual Jefferson Regional tree lighting, organized by our volunteers, is a special event to recognize all the lights that were sponsored in memory or honor of our loved ones," said Laura Beth Shaner, director of the Jefferson Regional Foundation & Volunteer Services.
It feels more like the holidays this year than the last two because of the covid pandemic.
"Due to covid, we have been unable to have the lighting the past two years," Peter Austin, JRMC's senior vice president and chief operating officer, said. "We are happy to be back celebrating with our community!"
Downtown artists sold their creations in various businesses including Indigo Blue Coffeehouse, RJ's Grill & Bar, The Avenue on Main, Uptown Salon & Boutique, Southeast Engravers and D'Virtuous Diva Boutique.
Rob Wheeler of Cabot makes duck calls, wooden rings and custom carved pens. He said supporting Pine Bluff's mission to revitalize and support artists means a lot to him.
"I see a lot of good happening," Wheeler said. "I was here in the spring for Pop Up on the Block, and I think Pine Bluff has a lot of potential."
Shoppers were few and far between at times, and many people blamed the rainy weather.
"I wanted to get some Christmas shopping done," Mary Jane Gibson said. "I hadn't been downtown at night in a long time, and it's really nice."
Maryann Lee, the owner of Indigo Blue, said that Pine Bluff needs a thriving downtown.
"We just need business owners who are committed," she said. "I want us to have unique and interesting products that you can only get here. I also think it's good to have this on a weeknight, so people can know that you can come downtown and there's stuff happening."
Rosie Pettigrew, who owns RJ's with her daughters, echoed Lee. Her restaurant and bar is known for its blues performers, and she wanted artists to know they are welcome to showcase their creativity.
"I think all of this is a subliminal message that it's OK to come down here at night," Pettigrew said. "I grew up in Pine Bluff and came back. I want to see it prosper. I would love for us to do this more often. The more we do it, the more people will start to come out more."