BATAVIA — The crowds visiting Empire Hemp Company on Saturday weren’t your typical evening customers.
Plenty of Marilyn Monroes and a few John Lennons. Even a version or two of Bob Ross, the popular television art teacher.
And that’s exactly the point as people packed downtown for the annual Batavia BID Wine Walk.
“We love to do this every year,” said Shelly Wolanske, herself dressed as Naomi Judd. “A lot of times people haven’t been to a CBD store and they have a chance to come in and look. Once they come in, they find it’s not as intimidating as they may think. I think once they come in, they’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve never been here.’” The visitors get introduced to the store’s products — such as skin creams, salves and gummies — and get to know its staff along the way.
This year’s wine walk invited people to dress as their favorite dead celebrities while sampling some of the best products from area wineries. About 650 people attended from the GLOW region and beyond.
As always, the idea is to get people downtown, promoting local businesses and what they offer, including places they might not have even known existed.
“I was listening to my music and I had realized everybody on my playlist had passed away,” said Executive Director Shannon Maute of the Downtown Business Improvement District. “I said, ‘That’s a great theme — let’s do dead celebrities. And I had gone to a party like that before and it just kind of clicked.”
Besides the business angle, the evening also brought forth a multitude of inventive and imaginative costumes. They ranged from the globally famous to somewhat forgotten icons.
Maute said they were both fantastic and unexpected, such as a group of costumed participants who recreated Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” Plus downtown was filled with crowds.
“It looks fantastic,” she said. “I love driving by and seeing Main Street full. Because it used to be when I was younger, when you would walk or drive down Main Street. You had the shoe stores, you had Carr’s, you had J.J. Newberry’s. I love to see it full.”
Pam Stauffer and Randy Stauffer visited all the way from St. Mary’s, Pa. They were dressed as Lucille Ball and John Wayne, while their daughter Sydnie dressed as Olivia Newton John.
Their cohort Tina Mileham dressed as Marilyn Monroe.
Why make the three hour drive?
“Because it’s fun and you get to go out and you meet a lot of people … Just to window shop, check out different areas, meet new people and have fun,” Pam Stauffer said.
Greg and Shirley Collins showed up dressed as Elvis Presley and Prince to support Adam Miller Toys & Bicycle, accompanying store owner Cathy Roche, who dressed as Janis Joplin. John Roche was dressed as Johnny Cash in the back of the store, while an employee was dressed as Roy Orbison.
Visiting Empire Hemp together were Rob Kowalski as Abraham Lincoln, Emma and Nathan Johathan as Betty White and John Ross, and Corey Metz as Coolio.
Metz of Clarence, said it was his first wine walk — they usually do beer walks.
“(Coolio) died 48 hours ago, I put it together really quickly, and I got a lot of compliments, on it,” Metz said.
Nearby, Dan VanDusen of Empire Hemp was dressed Kenny Rogers.
So it was an evening of costumed fun and successful business promotion.
“Hopefully we can bring more businesses and people downtown,” Maute said.
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