More than 2 dozen businesses participating in Downtown Passport program

This year's expanded Downtown Passport challenge gives customers more days and more places to explore and discover.

In its second year, the passport features 26 local merchants, compared to 14 last year, says Kelcie Webster, visitor center and marketing coordinator for the Chamber of Greater Springfield. The chamber and the convention and visitors bureau organized the challenge.

Customers can pick up a passport at any of the participating merchants. Each time one of the businesses is patronized, its logo on the passport will receive a hole punch. After all of the logos are punched, the completed passport can be dropped off at Champion City Guide & Supply, 36C N. Fountain Ave., for a chance to win prizes. Customers can complete as many passports as they wish.

Last year the challenge was on First Fridays only, but this year patrons can collect hole punches any day of the week. The change allowed additional businesses to participate, Webster says. Merchants that have recently opened or that have daytime-only hours have joined many of last year's participants.

The passport is like a map to explore and gives patrons a reason to visit downtown merchants that they perhaps didn't even know were open, she says.

“It pushes you and motivates you to go to a new restaurant or bar and maybe see what they have,” Webster says.

Patrons also can collect punches while taking advantage of the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) – exploring downtown merchants while sipping beverages from participating businesses, she says.

Many small businesses have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now is an especially important time to support local, Webster says. The passport also gives patrons a chance to become more familiar with what is downtown and the spaces that are available.

Downtown Passport winners will be drawn on October 2. One grand prize winner will receive a 55-inch smart TV, three people will win $100 Visa gift cards, and more than a dozen people will receive gift baskets with gift cards or products from participating merchants.

Webster hopes passport-holders “fall in love with downtown” and maybe even find a new favorite restaurant. But the passport is far from food and drink alone.

“There's a little bit of everything for everyone,” Webster says.

Read more articles by Diane Erwin.