Thousands of eager shoppers flocked to the Ashland Town Center Sunday night to kick off the shopping season with the mall’s annual Magical Night of Giving holiday sales.
For the past five years, the mall has opened its shopping season early with deals for those who want to get a leg-up on gift purchases, while offering incentives to buy raffle tickets for door prizes that benefit local charities.
This year, the date was pushed up from its typical time near Thanksgiving to Nov. 17, and doors were open from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., instead of 7 to 10 p.m.
“Magic Night of Giving is our way to give back to the whole community,” said marketing director Jaime Bloss. “Any RC1-3 nonprofit groups approved through us can sell the tickets, and they get 100 percent of the profit at $5 per ticket.”
Bloss said ticketholders receive discounts in the retail stores, which vary from store to store. The discounts are preapproved by each store’s corporative office.
Door prizes were offered through the mall and local businesses, which varied from laptops, free dinners and bicycles to flat-screen televisions and a Visa gift card worth $1,000.
Ticketholders are the only ones eligible for door prizes, but Bloss said the one-night-only deals are open to everyone, even though some participating stores required customers to show a hand stamp given to those who purchased tickets.
Shoppers Robin Justice and Phyllis Terry are no strangers to the Magical Night experience. Justice said she comes each year, primarily attracted to door-prize opportunities.
“I’m hoping to get the $1,000 gift card,” she said as she pulled out the long list of possible prizes from the program.
Throngs flooded each corner of the mall, with special Magical Night features in each corridor. Dance performances played out in front of Belk, pop-music pulsed from large speakers near Guest Services and information tables were scattered throughout for the charities benefiting from the night.
Bloss said planning for next year’s events will not begin until after today’s calculations are finalized, but they will be looking at the other five malls who also hosted a Magical Night of Giving this year to collaborate on ideas for growth and improvement.
Last year, she said ticket sales raised around $26,000 for charity. She expects this year’s event will see similar success.
Other holiday kick-off events throughout the area are under way this month. The Winter Wonderland of Lights opening ceremony will be at 6 p.m. today at the bandstand in Central Park.
The lights in the park will be on display through Jan. 5 from dusk until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and dusk to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Ashland’s annual Christmas parade, with a theme of “Silver Bells,” will be Nov. 26 with Jule Huffman, aka Mr. Cartoon, serving as grand marshal.
LANA BELLAMY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2653.