As announced by MC Dave McGrath at Light Up on Saturday night, the Christmas season has officially begun in the valley. This means many things: skiing and skating are just around the corner (for some hardy backcountry skiers and intrepid skaters, it’s already started); Christmas parties are coming up; we’ll see more and more Christmas lights and decorations; the joyous strains of our favourite Christmas songs (off the Windermere Valley Musicians Who Care Christmas in the Valley CD, of course) will permeate the air; delicious treats that make an appearance just once a year will fill our bellies, and gift giving is suddenly on our minds.

For those of you who didn’t make it to Light Up Night… yes, you missed a great parade with the usual sirens and flashing lights and free candy and costumes, and yes, you missed a great community party at Pothole Park (see page 9 for photographic evidence), and yes, you missed the symbolic lighting up of the District of Invermere’s Christmas tree… but what you also missed was the wonderfully warm welcome from all the shop owners who kept their stores open late to celebrate the start of the local holiday season.

Not only did many of these shops offer complimentary hot chocolate, hot apple cider, and even wine, but all were bursting with endless, incredible gift ideas for any budget.

There’s no better way to support your local economy than by shopping locally.

And The Valley Echo is making it even easier to spend time in the local stores by offering $1,000 cash to the lucky winner of the Christmas Shopping Spree contest. Every purchase you make at a participating store (see their ads on pages 10 and 11) equals one entry. Enter as often as you like, and the more you shop local, the greater your chances are of winning an easy grand.

Your hard-earned dollars stay in the valley and help it flourish, while yourself and your loved ones are treated to unique and meaningful gifts. It’s a win-win situation and, guaranteed, you and everyone else will be oohing and aahing over the local treasures you find.