GALENA, Ill. — Taking advantage of the sunny skies, pedestrians flocked Sunday to Galena, often with their mothers in tow.
The turnout not only signaled a spring embrace for motherly celebration but also rising confidence in public gatherings as more Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Yes, I would say there are definitely more people out shopping just because they’re less scared,” said Kayla Meyer.
On Sunday, she staffed the checkout counter at Red’s Wholesale Barn so her mother could have the day off.
The family business, located at 308 S. Main St., specializes in metal decor.
Flowers and roosters have proven popular among shoppers this weekend, Meyer said.
Galena, a city that depends on the out-of-towners who patronize its downtown antique shops, specialty food stores and boutiques, sustained significant losses last year following COVID-19 lockdowns.
Rose Noble, CEO of Galena Country Tourism, told the Telegraph Herald in February that lodging tax collections, which the county uses as a metric of tourism in the community, declined about 20% since the pandemic began. She did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.
But change is brewing. Nationally, 72% of Americans are planning a summer vacation, according to the U.S. Travel Association, a 35% increase compared to the year prior.
“I look at our sales history for the year, and it says we are up over this month last year, but last year was practically non-existent for most of us, so there is nowhere to go but up,” said Connie Twining, co-owner of Outside the Lines Art Gallery, 101 S. Main St.
Greeting cards remain the No. 1 seller at the gallery, Twining said, but jewelry and vases also were popular items for Mother’s Day.
Customers browsed flavored dipping oils and bags of soup mix at Galena Garlic Co., 311. S. Main St.
“Summer is the busiest time of year, and we are hitting summer levels,” said employee Van Donovan. “I’m finding a lot more people are driving three or four hours to come here. We had somebody here from South Dakota the other day. I think they don’t want to get on an airplane, so a six-hour drive doesn’t seem so bad.”
Lee Ann Mowers, 60, and her daughter Lindsey Buehrer, 32, took a short holiday vacation, driving to Galena from Peoria for a weekend of dining and shopping.
“We just wanted to do a day of mother-daughter time,” said Buehrer, 32, as they browsed home furnishings at Honest John’s Trading Post.
The visit was their first in Galena this year. Buehrer treated her mother to a manicure and pedicure, while Mowers purchased her daughter a gift certificate for a massage.
They both feel safer vacationing now that coronavirus vaccines have rolled out.
“It was disabling last year, not being able to leave the house,” Buehrer said.
Mowers said Mother’s Day is an occasion when she feels proud of her daughter, who is now a mother herself, and sentimental following the death of Mowers’ own mother.
“She’s been gone many years, but you still think about her and remember,” Mowers said.
City officials recently closed two blocks of Main Street to motor vehicles and eliminated street parking for an additional half-block.
The closures, which remain in effect until October, accommodate Galena’s outdoor dining program, which proved instrumental for restaurants last year as they coped with indoor capacity restrictions.
Kim Cox, of Monroe, Wis., visited Galena with her mother on Sunday to sit down for lunch with her family.
Mother’s Day “means appreciating the woman that gave birth to you and raised you, that gave you your beliefs,” she said.