Big Kiss moves indoors to hotel
Posted: February 7, 2013
The Winchester Star
Winchester — The city’s biggest annual public display of affection will go on as planned this year, but in a slightly warmer venue.
Organizers of the third annual Big Kiss are striving to break the previous record of 189 people simultaneously sharing the largest synchronized kiss in Virginia. But with the ongoing construction on the Loudoun Street Mall, the kiss’s usual setting, the Old Town Development Board has moved the event to the George Washington Hotel, 103 E. Piccadilly St., said Kim Burke, promotions chair.
“We are actually hoping we can drum up a little more interest in the event because it will be indoors, so weather shouldn’t be a problem,” she said.
The kiss will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the hotel’s ballroom and cap off a day of events the organization has developed around it, she said. Additional activities include a Sip ‘N Stroll event involving downtown businesses, raffles, a movie and blood pressure checks. All events except one of the raffles are free.
Initially, members of the OTDB weren't sure if the event could continue because of the construction going on at the normal spot for the kiss, in front of the Old Court House Civil War Museum, said Burke of Winchester. But the hotel “stepped in and allowed us to do it there for free.”
Events start at the hotel when Magic Lantern Theater offers a showing of “Bell, Book and Candle” at 1 p.m. in the ballroom, said Jennifer Bell, downtown manager with the City of Winchester. The 1958 romantic comedy stars Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak and Jack Lemmon.
Shenandoah University students will give blood pressure checks from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m. in the hotel lobby, with music by the sponsoring radio station 98.3 KISS-FM, she said. Raffle tickets will also be sold in the lobby for $1 each or $5 for six. Proceeds benefit the American Heart Association.
Raffle prizes include a night’s stay at the hotel, gift certificates to various downtown restaurants and other items donated by local businesses, Bell said.
“We have a range of prizes also from downtown merchants. They were very generous,” she said.
All of the events lead up to the Big Kiss, and organizers are hoping the ballroom will be overflowing with people willing to share a smooch for the camera, she said.
“I think it is a really fun event to set a record. People like to be involved in something that is record setting,” Bell said. “It is a fun, romantic event that highlights the coming of Valentine’s Day.”
Besides the move indoors, one of the biggest changes this year is that participants will not be able to bring their pets into the hotel for the photo, said Ben Weber, Winchester city councilman and emcee of the event.
“We did not count the animals in this, but I think we had a total of four or five dogs last year,” he said.
The event can be full of surprises, Weber said. At the second event, a man used the romantic mood of the event as a backdrop for a marriage proposal. “She was very surprised and very happy. And she did say yes.”
The kiss will be back on the mall next year, but in the meantime, organizers found another way to draw people to the downtown businesses, Burke said. New to the event this year is the addition of a Sip ‘N Stroll from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Many of the participating businesses will have light refreshments for customers and offer special promotions and discounts, Bell said.
Participants can pick up a “golden ticket” from one of 30 participating businesses, visit seven of the locations, and get it stamped at each one to be entered into a raffle, she said. Entry is free.
The prizes for the raffle are two baskets with various items and gift certificates donated by downtown businesses, she said.
“It is good timing to buy things for Valentine’s Day or make dinner reservations for Valentine’s Day while they are out and about for the event,” Bell said.
The Old Town Development Board’s third annual Big Kiss will be held at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the ballroom of the George Washington Hotel, 103 E. Piccadilly St.
— Contact Laura McFarland at email@example.com