Merchants pull out the stops for Frosty Fest

A sign for Friday's Frosty Fest sits outside Vintage Rose in downtown Ontario on Monday morning. The store's owner, Tracy Hammond, is organizing the holiday festival, which will include a host of freebies for attendees, including hot cocoa, horse and buggy rides and chestnuts.

ONTARIO — While chestnuts will be roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost may not yet be nipping at your nose for a holiday festival in downtown Ontario from noon to 8 p.m. this Friday.

Merchants in the downtown corridor have been working in the background since late October on the festival and shopping event with which they aim to create a Hallmark-like atmosphere along Oregon Street. Dubbed Frosty Fest, the event will feature more than 40 vendors and food trucks, with free horse and buggy rides, chestnuts, music and, even, a game in which youth can win toys. Appearances are also expected from Frosty, the Grinch and Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.

The event is going to take place on South Oregon Street, which will be blocked off from the stop sign by Ashley Furniture’s warehouse all the way to Columbia Bank.

The goal is to gear the town up for the possibility of having Hallmark shoot a mid-summer movie here in future years.

“We’re not there yet, but if it’s good enough and we have a good enough response, we may be,” explained organizer Tracy Hammond, who said that if they’re ready to roll out the perfect backdrop in 2022, they would invite Hallmark out and try to get Ontario in the spotlight.

“I am so excited — it’s going to be a hoot,” she said.

Hammond, owner of Vintage Rose, has been working with a host of people in order to pull off a memorable holiday experience. This has including other merchants, Teri Anne Finnerty who is the organizer of the Ontario Saturday Market and Ontario City Manager Adam Brown.

The city manager recently asked the Ontario City Council to use $700 of the funds available in his city manager excess budget to pay for the horse and buggy rides at the event. He first told the council about the concept during its Oct. 26 meeting, asking if he could use the money he had from the training budget since he was down an assistant for a couple months to help pay for that.

During the meeting, he also told the council that local businesswoman Debbie Blackaby had proposed a Visitors & Chambers Convention Bureau grant to purchase Christmas lights to be given to downtown businesses to decorate their stores — something that could be used each year.

“I wanted to bring the concept to you fresh, and to get your blessing and support,” Brown told the council.

Mayor Riley Hill requested the city manager bring the matter back for a formal motion at the next meeting. Brown did that on Nov. 9, when the council unanimously approved him allocating funds from his excess budget for the event.

Brown’s funds will pay for rides from Sylvia Wilcox Horse and Buggy.

“We had 600 people ride it last time,” Hammond said.

Christian Life Fellowship plans to give away free hot cocoa and free music is expected, too. Hammond said carolers from a couple of different church groups and a local school, are aiming to attend, and that a local DJ has also offered to provide free music. And, while they hadn’t heard back yet to confirm it, organizers were also trying as of Thursday to get a live Nativity for the evening.

The chestnuts, which are also free, were donated by lady out of Marsing who farms acorns. She will be showing organizers how to roast the nuts at the event.

Additionally, the Ontario Fire Department is expected to show up with their engine and dog down, and Treasure Valley Community College is expected to bring their Chukar mascot and a “rope-the-horse” game, in which kids win toys that were donated by Vintage Rose.

Hammond said Brown and Blackaby were able to get enough of a grant for two light strands for every merchant — even those who aren’t participating in the festival.

“To see the city support us is what we wanted all along,” Hammond said.

Despite some personal hardships experienced over the past year, for this holiday season, Hammond said is trying to look at the glass half full, and get many people involved.

“We don’t have to agree on everything. We are all about community,” she said.

To this she said they are doing everything they can to bring the community together.

“We want Frosty Fest to be huge,” Hammond said, adding that she anticipates about 2,000 people showing up. “This fest is going to be a blessing for this town.”

Load comments