In a little more than two weeks the Festival of Lights Holiday Parade will make its way down River Road. It’s very few cities that get to call themselves home to two distinct, large parades.

The organizers recognized Keizer as the perfect location to bring their parade after a one year hiatus. It is up to all of us to confirm their choice was the correct one.

Sure, thousands of Keizer residents will undoubtedly line River Road on Saturday, Dec. 10, to watch the largest lighted parade west of the Mississippi.  But just as important will be how the businesses along Keizer’s main thoroughfare help themselves to take advantage of the thousands of people that will be right outside their respective front doors.

Parade organizers would be thrilled to see the River Road lined with thousands of spectators coming from throughout the region. The Festival of Lights Holiday Parade has a history of bringing people out even in the worst kind of weather. It would thrill the organizers and other community boosters to see businesses along the route embrace the parade’s presence but also use it as a marketing opportunity.

Social media has changed the marketing landscape for many businesses over the past decade, but nothing beats retail, person-to-person marketing.

The owner of a non-retail business which normally closes at 5 p.m. or doesn’t even operate on a Saturday may decide to let the parade pass them by. That doesn’t make marketing sense.

Any business on River Road can affordably sell hot chocolate or Christmas cookies to the hundreds of people that will be mere feet from the door. Before the parade businesses can open their doors and welcome people in.

A parade spectator may not buy insurance or purchase a car while they wait, but they’ll remember the name of the store or business that offered a hot beverage along with flyers about themselves.

There are businesses which bemoan Keizer’s annual Iris Festival Parade because it cuts off access to their stores for a few hours on a May Saturday morning. In today’s economic climate it is a better bet to turn what some see as a negative into a positive.

Every business no matter what it does can promote their products and services in a way that is little used today:  face to face. Questions can be answered and contact information can be exchanged.

We are glad that the Festival of Lights Holiday Parade is coming to Keizer and we hope come Sunday, December 11, the organizers will feel their decision to bring the parade here was a good move.  It will be good for Keizer as a whole and it should be very good for Keizer’s business community, as long as we step outside the norm of our business operations and welcome potential customers with open arms.

—LAZ