Note: This column first appeared in Impact, the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce's monthly newsletter.
By CHRISSIE DUFFY
A city, or county, and the businesses within that area, grows and prospers only by community-wide cooperation.
What keeps our community growing and on the right track? It all has to do with people, making a difference. Visionary leaders, industry experts, non-profit organizers, church groups; all make up a culture and a civic infrastructure in Andalusia that you just don’t see in other small towns. Coupled with support for our public school systems and impressive healthcare systems, we have a great foundation!
To really cultivate prosperity in rural Alabama, we cannot wait for improvements to happen. The world is more competitive than ever. We have to fight for our community. We have to invest in our community. We must be specific and intentional. If it means picking up trash on the side of the road to make Andalusia a nicer looking city, organizing groups to raise awareness for our specific needs, and even planning quality of place events like our Christmas in Candyland. These “small” things add up to make the biggest difference. And can be a catalyst a change. We never really know how far-reaching our conversations can go, and projecting positivity, using our resources with intention, and being specific with our efforts is what moves the needle.
I like to think of our Chamber as a window through which people can see what Andalusia has to offer. Some of our efforts go to generate interest, and generate content and also shed positive light on this town and the real bonuses of living in a rural community. What better way for people to see Andalusia than beautifully decorated for Christmas? Candyland started just six years ago as a little idea I had in the back of my mind to make it snow on the square. Little did I know that it would literally snowball into something much larger, but think of all the change that has happened in that time. Our downtown has seen a renaissance that has breathed new life into our community.
Candyland by the numbers
Let’s go through how many people we were able to reach through this one event. Starting with our own organic marketing efforts of the event, our Candyland Facebook page has an engaged reach of more than 200,000 people, and our website got about 30,000 hits last December. We tracked cell phone data using a geo fence around Springdale and the Square and collected 38,000 unique devices that attended the event. That is 38,000 cell phone carrying adults (with location services on) and we can extrapolate from that information that we had more than 60,000 people actually attend the event. They even took the data further to tell us that 17,114 individual families attended with an average family size of 2.96, average household income of $68,555 and the median age is 39.2.
Last year, Andalusia was also featured on the MSN homepage on December 12th for an article Reader’s Digest put out about the most Festive Town in each state. The cover photo of the article was of downtown Andalusia and we were in the top left corner of the welcome screen for MSN.com homepage for an entire day. MSN is the 33rdmost visited website in the world and 28thmost visited in the US with about 850 MILLION visits last December alone. What does that mean for Andalusia? I don’t really have any idea, but that is a whole lot of people that saw a positive story about our town. We were also featured in the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and several other regional publications.
We just received a message from a different national publisher that will be featuring our event this year. This has the potential to gain even more publicity than last year. We have to harness that energy and use it to its greatest potential. We did that together! The list of businesses, organizations, and individuals that bring this event to life is huge and I would like to encourage you all to help continue to spread joy this December. In my opinion, what makes our event unique and so exciting is the shared investment in the event through the Candyland Cottages. Now is a great time to make your mark on this community by putting your company or organization or church’s culture into a playhouse for children to enjoy with their families this season. Not only does this reflect positively on your organization from the outside, your employee base will also swell with pride.
If you would like to participate in Christmas in Candyland in any capacity, please contact the Chamber today.
"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." --Helen Keller
Chrissie Duffy is the executive director of the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce. She can be reached at .