By Rebecca Melson   UMW

Small Business Saturday is quickly becoming the best thing since Black Friday.  You may not get to be trampled over or, have to wake up at 5 a.m., but you will get to connect with your community in ways that will help it thrive.

The streets and businesses of Downtoblog_santaandmrsclauswn Fredericksburg were filled this past Saturday, as locals and members of surrounding communities gathered together to start off the Christmas shopping season. St. Nicholas and Mrs. Claus could be found walking by all the shops, spreading the spirit of the season and creating the kind of feelings that illuminate a community.

With the hustle and bust that the holiday season can bring, we may sometimes forget that the holidays are also about community and gathering together.

Not only does Small Business Saturday work to support our local’s, taking an emphasis off of what is sometimes generically offered to us through some of the bigger retail corporations, but it allows individuals to meet and interact with small business owners who earnestly believe in what they bring to the community.

As I wondered about Downtown Fredericksburg for this busy event, I was able to meet and interact with some of those individuals that make up this community.blog_violin

Now, it’s not every day that you might get a professional violinist to give you a free lesson on how to tune, play, and recognize a hundred-year-old violin, but if you were downtown antiquing, looking for some Saturday deals, you may have had that opportunity.  Cowboy Ken works Booth 21, located within R and R Antiques. where he patiently masters and quips his violins as if they were clay.  Not only did I get a deeper understanding of Ken’s craft, but I got to know Ken.

“I’m an encyclopedia of useless information” he says.  “At least that is what my wife tells me.”

Ken was not the only one who taught me something unique. Leanne Kelly, of Southern Accents Trading Company, located on 1011 Caroline St. shared her eclectic collection expertise of unusual items that can speak to anybody.

Leanne greeted her guests with a celebratory mimosa that added to the spirit of the season, then was gracefully available to explain the history on all of her beautiful and acentric Asian, modern, and southern worldly items.

blog_mimosa I enjoyed the mimosa, but I relished in the fact that she allowed me to play her authentic 17 string Koto, a traditional Japanese instrument often used by kneeling Geisha in performances. Her whole store is full of these worldly treasures, and for those with the eclectic eye, this is a certain destination.

Collaborated smells of food permeated Caroline St., as did the sounds of a lone street corner performer and several students of a high school band.  These are the events that can spark the imagination of a child, thus making an investment into the future of the community, and the ones that give a deeper meaning of the season to the rest of us.

To connect to the community, is to also connect with the environment.  What better way can we as individuals service our community than to familiarize ourselves with what is around us? When we engage within our environments in meaningful ways, we can then take steps towards preservation that will no doubt grace future generations as well.

Tucked close to the Rappahannock, at River Rock Outfitter, 915 Sophia St., you will find some very experienced and adventurous members of the Downtown community.

blog_johnnyHere’s Johnny!  He is a professional kayaker and paddle board instructor, who trains right on the Rappahannock River.  You may have met him this Saturday while he was busy fitting people to the best possible shoe for their outdoor adventures, or explaining that Pogies are river gloves that can be worn to paddle in the winter. Not only can Johnny dance a kayak down the river, but he offers 101 classes for the rest of us that have a need and desire to explore those avenues as well. Even with the constant flow of people going in and out of the Outfitter, Johnny and his co-workers took the time to tell me how I also, could successfully make these connections.

Keith, alongside his wife April, have built the Outfitter as a place to intersect the outdoors and the community.  They have filled their store with trusted and tried brands that can accommodate various skill levels, as well as offering rentals of kayaks and paddle boards.

I was excited to learn about the possibilities of me actually learning to rock climb, or finally taking my son on a kayaking trip, when Keith explained that River Rock also organized free hiking trips with guided experts! I may find myself out on the trails….soon!