The annual Festival of Trees starts today in Bel Air as part of a busy Thanksgiving Weekend around Harford County.
The annual Festival of Trees starts today in Bel Air as part of a busy Thanksgiving Weekend around Harford County. (Courtesy Chesapeake Cancer Alliance)

There was a time when Thanksgiving was the starting line.

Everyone lined up, got ready and took off racing headlong into the holidays when the starter’s pistol sounded shortly after dawn the day after Thanksgiving.


The day after Thanksgiving was so important for holiday shoppers and retailers alike it eventually earned the moniker Black Friday, as in it’s so important to businesses that it puts them in the black for the year. Black, as in black ink, means profitability.

When Black Friday started, stores generally opened at the usual time, around 10 a.m. As it evolved, the day’s starts became 8 a.m., then 6 a.m. and then finally 4 a.m. When 4 a.m. wasn’t early enough to satisfy the shopping hordes, the sanctity of Thanksgiving as a day off was breached.

Now, Black Friday is just another day for Christmas shopping deals, joining Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and every single day in the run up to Christmas. Cyber Monday, the first day back to work after Thanksgiving Weekend, came into vogue when online shopping started gaining traction. Retailers reported huge sales that day leading to more and more sales with each passing year. That continues to drive more and more business that day each year because no one wants to feel left out.

The desire to not be left out spawned Small Business Saturday as independent, local retailers, backed by a big corporate ally, wanted their share of the Thanksgiving Weekend shopping bonanza.

“It’s 2010, and small businesses are hurting from an economy in recession,” American Express says on its web site. “In an effort to support local shops that make our communities strong, American Express launches Small Business Saturday on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to encourage people to Shop Small and bring more holiday shopping to small businesses.”

From there the initiative has taken off.

“In 2011, the Senate unanimously passes a resolution in support of the day and officials in all 50 states participate. It even gets a shout-out from the president of the United States,” the American Express web site says.

The effort’s success is quantifiable.

“Since Small Business Saturday started, U.S. customers have reported spending an estimated total of $85 billion at independent retailers and restaurants —that's $85 billion over 8 days alone,” American Express says.

“Small Business Saturday continues to be an annual holiday shopping tradition — just one part of the larger Shop Small movement to support small businesses every day and everywhere,” American Express says, “because a visit to the family-owned framing shop or a stop at the neighborhood taco truck not only supports our local economies, but also promotes thriving communities.”

It’s been a success in Bel Air and in Havre de Grace, two Harford County communities with thriving downtown business districts.

With the buzz around the annual Festival of Trees at the Bel Air Armory on Main Street, Bel Air has even more of a holiday feel to it.

“Each year, this event is organized by a dedicated group of volunteers to bring the community together to celebrate the season, support the downtown businesses in Bel Air and to raise awareness of the tremendous Cancer LifeNet services available to the community,” Sandy Guzewich, 2018 Chesapeake Cancer Alliance Festival of Trees chairperson, said. “All proceeds from this event stay here in our community to help patients and families fighting cancer.”

For the 13th year, the Chesapeake Cancer Alliance is bringing decorated trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses to life for the Thanksgiving Weekend.


This event, showcases donated trees, wreaths and gingerbread houses to be sold by silent auction benefiting Cancer LifeNet at the Patricia D. and Scot M. Kaufman Cancer Center at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health in Bel Air. Cancer LifeNet assists more than 1,500 patients and families each year.

“It’s really part of downtown. It has become a traditional downtown with Black Friday and and Small Business Saturday on Main Street,” Guzewich said. “It’s really a draw for downtown businesses, the Alliance and the Town of Bel Air.”

We agree and encourage everyone to participate in Small Business Saturday and to visit the Festival of Trees.

After all, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” don’t you think?