Saturday, November 21, 2009

Window Night

This year, on the Monday following Thanksgiving, downtown Rochester merchants will kick off the holiday shopping season with their Lagniappe celebration, an annual event since 1973. When I was growing up in the 1960s, the Rochester Chamber of Commerce encouraged Christmas shopping with a promotion called Window Night. The program started in the week before Thanksgiving, when participating stores displayed prize merchandise in their front windows, along with a poster containing a winning number that was kept covered up until the appointed time. As shoppers visited the stores to conduct their normal business, they would be given numbered tickets. The shopper retained the ticket, hoping it would match the store's number to be revealed on Window Night.

On the actual evening of Window Night, the sidewalks were filled with people waiting for the fire siren to blow at 7:00 p.m., signaling the official unveiling of the winning numbers. Merchants uncovered their numbers, and shoppers moved from store window to store window, pressing their noses to the glass to compare their tickets to the posted numbers. A shopper holding a winning number was rewarded with the prize merchandise displayed by the merchant whose number matched the shopper's ticket. There was plenty of merriment and everybody enjoyed the excitement of searching for winning numbers while browsing the shops and looking at the Christmas lights along Main Street.

Of course, the holiday light display on Main was much more modest than the one we have today. It consisted of garland and colored light bulbs strung across Main from light pole to light pole, with a three red plastic bells in the center hanging right over the middle of the street. Each bell had a light bulb inside and the bulbs were sequenced to blink off and on going from left to center to right and back again, to simulate the motion of a ringing bell. The effect was charming but sometimes made it a challenge to pick out the traffic lights that were hanging near the bells.

The Window Night promotion was replaced by Rochester's own version of the Creole tradition of Lagniappe, "a little something extra," in 1973. The garland and the bells were retired years ago, and now we are a regional sensation with the Big Bright Light Show. Lagniappe will be held on November 30 this year, and the Big Bright Light Show will open on that evening at 7:00 p.m. Click here for details.

1 comment:

  1. I am trying to convince anyone! that Lagniappe was what you are calling Window Night here. I was born 12/28/51 and my dad took me around to this same thing you are writing about only I distinctly remember the word "lagniappe" because my dad would call it "lag-nap" and we tho't it was so funny ... meaning "a little something extra" ... and you described it perfectly, except I swear! I remember it being called Lagniappe ... and I was already moved away in 1971 so I sure wouldn't remember it from when the "present day" folks are calling it. I'm writing this 11/27/12 when the purportedly "40th anniv of Lagniappe" just happened last night..........and I've been reading your blog from beginning until I just now found this. Thanks!