‘Tis the season to keep it local

— Created November 18, 2020 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

We may have to stay close to home for the holidays this year, but there’s no reason we can’t take the time to appreciate what Island County has to offer and better yet, share it with those who can’t be with us.

In the spirit of helping local businesses through the tough economic times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Whidbey-Camano Islands Tourism has launched one of a few shop local efforts funded by grants from Island County’s CARES funds.

“Whidbey and Camano Islands 2% Joint Advisory Board has recently shifted its energy to encourage residents to take a  renewed sense of pride and adventure and become explorers of their own county,” said Sherrye Wyatt, executive director of Whidbey-Camano Islands Tourism. “We’ve been working closely with Island County Chambers of Commerce and representatives of the Island County Economic Recovery Task Force since March on a number of fronts. We’ve launched essentially a ‘shop local with a twist’ campaign funded by CARES money. Our main goal is to encourage everyone to stay safe and close to home this holiday season to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

This local shopping guide, which arrives in mail boxes this week and is also accessible online at whidbeycamanoislands.com, includes not only gift items unique to Whidbey and Camano Islands, but also a collection of experiences to enjoy once it is safe to do so.

According to Wyatt, there is plenty to see and do in Island County.

“What may surprise many of us who live in Island County is just how little time we’ve spent exploring our sister island,” she said. “Why not do that now and invest money into our own county, where you’ll instantly have a local return on investment? “Another pleasant surprise is just how many world class, high quality artisans live here,” Wyatt continued. “In preparing the guide, we were overwhelmed by how many cool gift items, self care, shelf stable foods, books, jewelry, tea, CDs of local musicians, art supplies, hand forged or carved things, craft beverages, candles, clothing and more are all made right here by our neighbors.”

For those looking for a way to share a piece of Whidbey Island with a friend or relative far away, the guide features descriptions and photos of some of the unique items available for purchase. There are also offers on places to stay and eat. Cost and travel-friendly sightseeing ideas are also featured.

“We’ve partnered with Island Transit and are highlighting accessible places to visit by bus with easy walks for everyone, even those with strollers or wheelchairs,” said Wyatt. “We’re profiling great places to get outside and experience outdoor art on both islands.”

If a stay-cation is of interest, this local shopping guide has options for that as well.

“There’s even 14 properties offering 20 percent off a three night stay for locals to take an island mini-break, find a new creative space to work remotely, or to secure a safe place for visiting friends and family to social distance but still visit safely during the holiday season,” Wyatt described.

Wyatt said new items and offers will be added in the coming weeks, encouraging people to check the website for the latest additions.

“Continue to check the site (whibeycamanoislands.com) throughout November and December to discover more things to do in your own backyard – places to eat or shop, video profiles of artisans, unique gift ideas and a very special giveaway ($1,000 getaway to the Inn at Langley, deadline to enter is December 31.),” she said.

Shopping local just might be the only way to go in a year like 2020.

“Let’s do what we can this holiday season to keep each other safe by finding joy in experiences close to home,” encouraged Wyatt. “Together we can help flatten the curve and promote a healthy and vibrant Island County.”

Look for other local shopping guides and features from the Coupeville and Langley Chambers of Commerce, which also received CARES funding to promote local businesses and shopping. Whidbey Weekly reached out to each of them but did not get responses by its print deadline.