Sip & Shop benefits youth program

Published 7:10 pm Sunday, May 13, 2018

On Friday, locals strolled through downtown shops to the tune of cellos, bass, tubas, violin and guitar during the Hydrangea Sip & Shop.

The annual event is organized by the Downtown LaGrange Development Authority, and this year it raised funds for LaGrange Symphony Orchestra’s Strings Attached youth strings program scholarships.

“We donate the proceeds to the youth strings program,” said Barbie Watts, director of promotions and marketing for the Downtown LaGrange Development Authority. “This year, we are specifying that it goes to scholarships for the youth because it is such a great program, and we are happy to help someone participate and afford those classes.”

The program provides local students with music education on stringed instruments.

“The downtown merchants’ association has been very generous with our youth program over the years, and the downtown merchants buy ads in our programs. They come to our concerts,” said Raylene Carter, the executive director of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra. “The city gives us a grant every year, so we want to give back to the community.”

LSO also raises awareness for its programs by performing at the Sip & Shop, and the young performers have become favorites of those that attend the event every year.

Musicians from the adult section of LSO also performed downtown Friday.

“A lot of people don’t really realize that we have a youth program,” Carter said. “In this case, we have a group of four trombones [from LSO] playing together and four bass playing together [in front of different stores], and most people don’t see a quartet like that, so they are shocked that you can have that kind of music.”

Downtown merchant kept their doors open late for the event and enjoyed the music that accompanied the steady flow of customers.

“We are excited to have the Sip & Shop with the symphony outside,” said Larry Fair of Red Door Antiques. “We love having all the people come visit. We get a lot of new people, a lot of out of town people too, so it is always great.”

All of the stores participating in the event provided food and beverages, and some decorated as well.

“It is an opportunity for people who haven’t necessarily been in the store to see it in its best light,” said Robert Standard of Marketplace at Lafayette Square. “All of the dealers are here, and they are able to interact with potential customers.”

That interaction — in addition to the fundraising — is why the DLDA organizes the Hydrangea Sip & Shop every spring and the Holiday Sip & Shop during the end of the year.

“That is why we do this,” Watts said. “It is to get people to slow down and come down and enjoy a night downtown and visit the shops.”

The event also gives store owners the opportunity to get to know people who might be visiting their shop for the first time.

“We are building relationships with the local community, and that is what we are all about,” said Diana Brock of Golden’s Bike Shop.

As the sun began to set, the air cooled, but shoppers continued to wander from shop to shop.

“What a perfect, beautiful night to enjoy the Hydrangea Sip & Shop and see all these wonderful people in downtown,” said Debbie Terrell of Plum Southern.

The next Sip & Shop event will be the Holiday Sip & Shop on Nov. 16, though the DLDA will take part in the Ciao Vino! Wine Tasting Festival at Del’avant on Sept. 7.