Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
It’s beginning to look a lot like that most festive season of the year, and the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce is looking to celebrate the Christmas spirit with a pair of initiatives focused on local businesses.
Beginning Friday, November 27 and running until Wednesday, December 18, shoppers in Fort Frances are encouraged to visit participating Chamber of Commerce member businesses in Fort Frances to get in on a Holiday Shopping Poker Derby. Chamber of Commerce executive director Heather Johnson explained the program is meant to support local businesses during a rough year while also giving shoppers a chance to win a neat prize pack.
“It’s a small campaign, but just one we hope will inspire people to realize there’s more shopping than just Scott Street,” Johnson said.
The way the program works is simple: for every individual $25 purchase a shopper makes at one of the participating businesses, they earn a poker card that has been provided by the Chamber. The goal of the derby is to shop local in order to earn as many cards as possible within the time frame, all while building towards the strongest poker hand possible. At the end of the contest, participants will send a photo of their best poker hand to the Chamber of Commerce and the individual who submits the best hand wins the prize.
Johnson said the derby is a borrowed idea from the Kenora Chamber of Commerce, who she said graciously helped out when the Fort Frances Chamber came calling.
“Kenora is doing this campaign as well, and they were very generous in letting us take it,” she said.
“They’ve done all the work on it. We’ve been wanting to do something for Christmas, and I said this would be great if we could do this for the Chamber members, who are often not on Scott Street.”
Among those Chamber businesses taking part are Webb’s Wholesale, Green Furniture, H&R Block, Causeway Insurance and Boston Pizza, with Johnson explaining that as word about the derby spreads that more Chamber members will sign up to take part.
In an abnormal year like what 2020 has been, the benefit of the poker derby is support for local businesses at a time when shopping options in and around Fort Frances have become limited, something Johnson said the Chamber was eager to do for their members.
“We’re very happy to be able to do something for businesses for Christmas,” she said.
“With no one being able to go across the border, and we shouldn’t be travelling to Thunder Bay or Winnipeg, it’s a really good opportunity for our businesses to show what they have, and they have an amazing variety of everything. Even our home based businesses have some truly great products.”
While the poker derby is meant to promote shopping local, Johnson said there’s another holiday promotion the Chamber will be putting on that is aimed at the businesses in town with the most holiday cheer.
“For our own Chamber members, what I’ve asked them to do is send us a picture of their business decorated,” she said.
“We’ll then show the picture on our website and then the picture that garners the most likes will win a $100 gift certificate, courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce, at whatever Chamber business they wish. It’s just a little something to have fun with the businesses and get them excited about Christmas too.”
The hope is that businesses who take part in the photo contest will take it as an excuse to go all out and decorate their businesses in the holiday spirit, which will go hand in hand in helping to spread some Christmas cheer around town. Johnson said the pair of programs are especially important as people’s regular holiday routines will be significantly impacted this year.
“It’s hard,” she acknowledged.
“To go across or to do anything is just out of the question right now, so get out there and see what your community has to offer, because there’s some amazing stuff out there.