I wonder how many of you know which United States president proclaimed that the last Thursday of November would be an official, national day of thanksgiving?
Most historical accounts of Thanksgiving tell the story of a harvest celebration following the first, and particularly hard, year the Pilgrims of Massachusetts endured after their arrival at Plymouth in 1620. Although there is evidence that they enjoyed a “thanksgiving” celebration, it really wasn’t the forerunner to our modern-day Thanksgiving celebration.
It was much later, in 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, and it has been a beloved tradition of late November ever since.
We celebrate Thanksgiving on Nov. 28 this year, and I’m sure most of us have much to be thankful for: our families, our jobs, our health and the extraordinary freedoms we enjoy in this country.
I would also suggest we all be thankful for a group of individuals who are frequently overlooked in the community — small business owners.
Much like the Pilgrims who sailed to this country aboard the Mayflower, entrepreneurs who start their own small business often don’t know what lies ahead. They’ve seen many other capable people with good ideas and services fail; however, they decide to take the risk anyway.
With the help of Native Americans, who taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn and donated food to them during their first difficult winter, the Pilgrims survived and celebrated with a harvest feast. In communities like Gig Harbor in the present day, it’s the support of residents and consumers that preserves the health of small local businesses.
On Nov. 30, another special day will be celebrated across the country — Small Business Saturday. Founded in 2010 by American Express, it’s a day dedicated to supporting small businesses everywhere.
Think about it for a moment. How many small, independently owned businesses do you frequent in any given week? Maybe you stop on your way to work for a coffee and a scone at a shop owned by someone who lives in town, and the baristas always remember your name.
“The usual?” they say with a smile and a compliment on your dress or your tie.
You get your hair cut on Saturday at the salon downtown. Or you find that certain something, that unique gift you know your sister will love, right here at a gallery or gift shop unlike any other.
But you actually get so much more than whatever product or service you’ve paid for. When you shop at these small local businesses, you support all the things that make Gig Harbor great. The money you spend here stays here, in this place you call your neighborhood.
So, I urge you to shop locally this year, whether it’s on Nov. 30 or any other day this holiday season. Try that cute dress shop on the corner that you still haven’t taken time to visit. Try a different restaurant; leave the fast food chain for another time.
This is the best way you can thank those who take a huge personal risk, work hard and make our town such a great place to live.
Have a happy Thanksgiving, from all of us at the chamber.Warren Zimmerman is the president of the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce. For more information, call 253-851-6865 or visit www.gigharborchamber.com.