Small Business Saturday and snowball drop

A crowd gathers, anticipating the 1,000 snow balls ready to fall to the ground.

OTTUMWA — Rain collided with snow this weekend as 1,000 snowballs dropped from the sky courtesy of the Ottumwa Fire Department.

White ping pong “snowballs” each offered deals at one of the 20 businesses participating in Small Business Saturday. People grabbed as many as they could muster, but had to keep in mind that one prize was used per business.

Some said the crowd was smaller than usual due to the drizzle, but those who were there came to make part of their Saturday “a shopping adventure.” Some planned which stores they wanted to hit first, while others wanted to walk around and see what they could find.

Sewing House Owner Tim Dobson had never seen the snowball drop due to having to be in the store during Small Business Saturday. He took a video of the snowball drop. He laughed and smiled at the reactions from the crowd. “I got a little water on my head,” he said with a chuckle, pointing at the bald spot on his head.

Once the crowd headed in different directions, Dobson went back to his store ready, predicting outpouring of support. He said he was not going to forget about the people who came out despite the drizzle.

Main Street Ottumwa Executive Director Fred Zeisger said he was pleased to see a crowd of people come out for this year’s snowball drop and Small Business Saturday. Shopping locally, Zeisger, said makes a positive difference for businesses overall.

“I think the businesses are starting to realize, too, that it’s a good day for them,” he said. “Every person makes a little bit of a difference. Shopping local especially — for every dollar spent, 67 cents stays within the community.

“I hope that they see and value [shopping locally],” Zeisger added, “not only through the holiday season, but for the whole year. The ultimate goal is to get people to come back downtown and shop as many times as they can. We’ve got a real diverse group of business owners downtown.”

IPhix I.T. owner Jessica Peterson wanted to encourage more people to shop locally. “I think the small businesses help out the community more than the larger businesses,” she said. “They put the money back into the community, like the money we get from our business supports our home, which supports our kids and different activities in town. The big-box stores don’t support locally.”

Dobson’s prediction came true — there was an influx of people from 10-11 a.m. and calmed down afterwards. It was the last day of his fabric sale, which meant he expected more sewing enthusiasts from Des Moines to show up for fabric. Whether or not one as sewed in their life, Dobson still wants more southeast Iowans to come to his store and other local stores.

“There’s some good things happening downtown and the Sewing House,” he said. “You need to check out the downtown businesses. When you spend money locally, it filters through the community and helps everybody. It’s a very powerful multiplier.”

Antiques and Uniques Owner Doug Barker and employee Denise Bates, like other business owners, wanted to draw people in. Bates said it’s Thanksgiving weekend that truly benefits small businesses.

“We’ve always had a positive response from it in past years,” Bates said. “In past years, it’s brought new customers in, old customers and even this time of year [with] Thanksgiving, we’ve had out-of-town guests come in.

“Thanksgiving weekend benefits the whole community,” she said. “It’s an excellent time to do it because there’s an awful lot of people from out of town coming to visit for Thanksgiving and we get the benefit of all that. They, in turn, come downtown and shop at our store.”

Bates hoped more people would support more businesses, and not just during the holidays.

“It’s important to support the community you live in,” she said, “because after all, that’s our money and our taxes and premium stuff, it’s important. It takes a community to support a whole town.”

Chiara Romero can be reached at


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