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Passport Program supports Columbus downtown businesses

Passport Program supports Columbus downtown businesses

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In place of Columbus Days this year, the Columbus Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is inviting people to take part in the Columbus Passport Program to support local businesses.

Columbus Days is important for the local economy and many organizations hold fundraisers during the event, but the annual occasion that was planned for next week has been canceled this year due to public health concerns surrounding COVID-19.

Katy McNeil, director of the visitors bureau, suggested the Passport Program as an alternative to Columbus Days.

Passport Program cards are available at any of the 25 participating businesses. Visitors will receive a stamp at each location they visit. No purchase is required to get a stamp.

Once the card is filled out, participants can take the card to the Convention and Visitors Bureau Office located inside the Columbus Area Chamber Chamber of Commerce.

They will then be entered in a drawing for one of five prizes, which are Columbus Bucks.

“Columbus Bucks are kind of like Chamber currency for businesses. So the Chamber sells them and then they can be spent at businesses around Columbus. It’s a double whammy for economic impact. They also get a chance, if they complete all of the stops, to enter to win one of those five Columbus Bucks prizes,” McNeil said.

The promotional event is open to visitors and locals and it runs from Aug. 1 through Aug. 16.

The Oasis bar and grill, 1264 27th Ave. in Columbus, is one of the businesses participating in the passport program. Oasis Manager Darla Moser said she hopes the Passport Program will help make up a little of the business lost without Columbus Days.

“During Columbus Days downtown was always busy. We’ve only been open for Columbus Days down here, so last year was very, very good for us. So we’re hoping the passport will bring people downtown,” Moser said.

She said people have already visited the Oasis with passport cards.

“We’ve had, since it started, probably about 10 people come in with cards and we marked them off. We’ve been giving out cards and I know those people have been going around,” Moser said.

Sandie Fisher is in charge of membership and community development for the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and has been involved in organizing Columbus Days for several years. Fisher said the Columbus Days Board of Directors decided to cancel Columbus Days last month.

“We had to postpone Columbus Days because of COVID. Unfortunately, we had to scale back all the events,” Fisher said.

The goal of the Passport Program is to still get businesses and consumers involved in a community event.

“The Visitors Bureau decided that we wanted to do something to promote local business and economic impact. I reached out to businesses and shared information at the downtown business association meeting to see who might be interested. I reached out to a few businesses that I knew would probably want to participate,” McNeil said.

McNeil said there will be other small events during the time that Columbus Days would have taken place -- Aug. 13 through Aug. 16.

“Different businesses were encouraged to decorate their windows, to have themed drinks or food items or to chalk their walks like the yellow brick road,” McNeil said.

The theme tying the events – “There’s No Place Like Home” – was born out of COVID-19, McNeil said.

“We were supposed to do something like getting outside and going to play and things like that. We’ll hang on to that one for next year because I’m sure people will be itching to get out their house,” McNeil added.

Molly Hunter is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at molly.hunter@lee.net.

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