Whether the weather outside was frightful or brightful, shoppers by land and sea filled Langley’s stores and restaurants with lots of Christmas cheer and cash throughout December.
“The Clipper arrived with eager crowds both Saturdays and Sundays, with the weather not deterring the holiday spirit,”said Inge Morascini, executive director of the Langley Chamber of Commerce.
The Clipper Christmas Ship delivered hundreds of passengers to the Port of South Whidbey, where they were met with an offer to drive them up in a shuttle van to avoid walking up the steep hill from the marina.
This is the second year that Langley and the Clipper Vacations combined forces to feature a day-long trip from downtown Seattle to Langley.
Ship passengers had a five-hour window to explore, shop, eat, and try new experiences, such as glass blowing at Callahan’s Firehouse Glass Studio.
Some merchants reported a booming business with out-of-town guests, some said the ship passengers scared away locals and others were happy to point out the plus side of shoppers by sea.
“We have so many more people and they don’t take up all the parking spaces,” Callahan McVay observed after helping a mother and daughter duo from the Clipper ship make glass souvenirs.
Volunteer Fred Lundahl said he learned from chatting with Clipper passengers that many had never been to Langley. But they planned to return.
“I’d say about 90 percent of passengers on every trip had never been here before,” he said, “so it opens up a tremendous potential for return visitors.”
International visitors were also among Clipper Christmas customers.
One Saturday five South Korean “social media influencers,” accompanied Sherrye Wyatt of Island County Tourism. The following day, a large group of travel industry specialists from the United Kingdom arrived as part of an Aer Lingus contingent celebrating its new Dublin to Seattle route.
On the edge of downtown, Clipper passengers were greeted with Langley’s infamous “Whalecome to Whidbey” sign.
Huge cut-out black crows decorated with red bows lined the street as did several elf ambassadors ready with directions, suggestions and answers to various questions.
These tourist-friendly touches were added for the winter Clipper ship visitors after complaints of “not enough greeting bling” were heeded by the Chamber of Commerce.
A dozen small decorated Christmas trees scattered around the village also provided a new look. Nonprofit organizations decorated the trees in various themes in a contest sponsored by the chamber.
Store fronts and windows boasted the most bling of all.
As is tradition, downtown merchants once again vied for “Deck the Doors” awards given out by the Langley Main Street Association.
“The inspiration behind Deck the Doors is to create an outdoor art gallery in which locals and visitors alike can come downtown, stroll around, grab a bite to eat, take in a few shops,” said Michaleen McGarry, Langley Main Street Association executive director.
Awarded four $500 prizes, were Beauty Lounge, Chocolate Flower Farm, Ott & Murphy, and South Whidbey Commons.