Couples pucker up, then sip-and-stroll

Posted: February 11, 2013

The Winchester Star

Roger Green takes a measurement Friday morning while constructing forms for concrete piers for the gateway feature on the Loudoun Street Mall.
HRI Inc. employees Todd Stephens (left) Roger Green (top) and his brother, Russell Green, work to build forms for the concrete piers that will support the gateway feature at the intersection of Loudoun and Boscawen streets. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
Caitlin Lee and Jesse Barnes of Winchester (center) join with other couples in The Big Kiss on Saturday afternoon at The George Washington Hotel. The Big Kiss is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
At right, Taliah Weber and Mitchell Ohriner lock lips along with about 90 other couples Saturday afternoon.

WINCHESTER

When Shanna Conner and Matt Morrow started their day Saturday, they had no idea that they’d wind up participating in a mass kiss.

“We really didn’t know about it,” Conner said of the third annual Big Kiss, a promotion held to draw people to downtown Winchester.

But Morrow got a call from a friend who was going, so the couple made their way to the bar at The George Washington Hotel by 4:30 p.m. to be part of the smooch group.

An exact count of how many kissers were on hand wasn’t readily available, Downtown Manager Jennifer Bell said Saturday evening, but turnout was consistent with last year. She hopes a panoramic photo taken at the moment of the kiss will provide a fairly accurate count.

The event, she said, also helped raise about $200 for the American Heart Association.

Morrow said the Big Kiss was nice, but he thought the turnout would have been larger.

“I think the time has a lot to do with it,” he said. “If it was done a little bit later, I think they’d have more participation.”

The event was moved to the hotel from the Loudoun Street Mall this year because of a major infrastructure replacement project that’s under way on the mall. Construction started the first week in January and should be completed by the end of April, with landscaping to follow in May.

To encourage people to visit shops in the construction zone, a sip-and-stroll promotion was added to Saturday’s event.

“It’s good to give people an extra excuse to come out and do some Valentine’s shopping,” Bell said.

While there might not have been kissing involved at their establishments, some business owners said they had increased foot traffic and sales as a result of the sip-and-stroll.

The promotion featured 30 downtown businesses who had signed up to participate in a raffle. Proceeds from the raffle when to the American Heart Association.

All the business owners had to do was validate raffle tickets brought to them and provide the ticket holder some sort of refreshment. People who turned in tickets validated by seven or more businesses were eligible to win prizes that included dinners at downtown restaurants and a night’s stay at The George Washington Hotel.

Rebecca Miller, co-owner of Posh Pets Boutique at 16 S. Loudoun St., said sip-and-stroll participation was “very good” at her store and led to some immediate sales and increased customer awareness.

“A lot of people who said they’d never been in our store and came in to get to us to sign their card,” she said Saturday evening. “A lot of people said they’d come back and do some shopping later and that they were glad to know we’re here.”

The results were similar at Incredible Flying Objects (IFO) at 111 N. Loudoun St., where shoppers were treated to candy and cookies.

“It worked really well. We had a lot of traffic,” store co-owner Anna Van Laeken said. “Yesterday and today we had really good days, and I think a lot of it had to do with [the sip-and-stroll].”

Van Laeken said that if the promotion is offered again next year, IFO will be on board.

“It’s fun,” she said. “People come down, they’re excited, and they’re having a good time.”

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at

vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com