Carrying blue passports and shopping bags, hundreds of shoppers strolled into more than 50 local stores in downtown Bend to support Small Business Saturday.

The national shopping holiday, held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, offers an alternative to the long lines during Black Friday and the isolated online shopping of Cyber Monday.

“It’s really the counter to Black Friday and now Cyber Monday,” Rod Porsche, executive director of the Downtown Bend Business Association, said. “The neat thing about this event is it really exposes these folks to the kind of businesses down here, where you can’t find a lot of the products they made locally online, and you can’t find it at the big-box stores.”

Kirsten Gilreath, owner of Ju-Bee-Lee clothing store, looks forward to Small Business Saturday each year, although she said she feels supported by locals in Bend year-round.

“I think it is probably one of my favorite days of the year. It’s such a great day to bond with the locals that we have in town,” Gilreath said. “We are so fortunate to live in Bend and live in a state like Oregon, where we support each other and you really feel it.”

The Downtown Bend Business Association, the local organizer of Small Business Saturday, set up a booth downtown on Wall Street. Before shopping, people picked up passports at the booth. If shoppers got their passports stamped at 10 different merchants, they could drop the passport in a raffle to win a large gift basket filled with goods donated from the local shops.

About 1,000 people participated last year, Porsche said, and he expected to have about 2,000 on Saturday. Winners of the raffles will be announced at Bend’s community tree lighting Monday.

Shoppers did not have to buy anything to get a stamp in their passports, but Porsche said the merchants are happy to have the extra foot traffic.

“The merchants like it because it gets people in the stores,” Porsche said. “That’s really the key. Even if they don’t buy today, they may buy in the future.”

Katie Wilcox, of Spokane, Washington, was visiting family in Bend and spent Saturday afternoon shopping downtown. She stayed in for Black Friday, but wanted to come out Saturday and support the local shopping scene.

“I think it’s an awesome idea,” Wilcox said. “I don’t know how the businesses feel about it, though, having so many people not buying anything, but it gets people out and about.”

Bend resident Amy Duda said seeing all of the shoppers downtown reminded her of when she lived in Australia and visited local markets.

“I haven’t lived there in a long time, but my hometown would definitely have the markets,” Duda said. “It’s good to support local artists.”

Duda came downtown Saturday to visit the Into the Woods Holiday Market, a fair of more than 30 local artists inside the Liberty Theater.

The holiday market vendors were not part of Small Business Saturday but embraced the spirit of the day, said co-producer Jacqueline Smith.

Many of the vendors at the market do not have brick-and-mortar shops and used the space inside the theater to connect with local shoppers.

“This is a huge opportunity for these artists,” Smith said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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