Carriage rides and and toy soldiers, caroling out in the cold — the annual holiday stroll drew throngs of holiday well-wishers. And now there’s a highlights reel.

A local cadre of business owners published a video featuring a walking tour of this year’s holiday stroll extravaganza. The short film is part of a wider effort, headed by local jeweler and proprietor Wayne Addessi, to advertise the town’s commitment to the arts and small town charm to outsiders.

“It’s just very friendly,” said Andrew Ziemba. “Everyone just seems very warm and welcoming.” “There’s a lot of mom-and-pop owned stores that are still thriving right on Main Street,” said his fiancée, Rachel Smith.

The couple were one of two newly arrived families interviewed in the short film about what drew them to the town.

The video shows Main Street decked out in all its holiday glory, with crowds of kids and holiday revelers of all ages taking part in carriage rides up and down the main drag through the village district. Along the sidewalks, ice sculptors craft replicas of the town police crest, as holiday crowds pick through collections on display at the Lounsbury House.

“We spent the past five years in France,” said the father of the Matthews family, also interviewed. “So we’re really looking for some place where we can get back to being Americans.”

The family previously lived in Lyon, France, though the father said he’s originally from Savannah, Ga.

The short film was produced by Sunset Lane Entertainment, a New York-based entertainment agency that came at the recommendation of Allison Stockel, executive director of the Ridgefield Playhouse, Addessi said.

He hopes to edit down a shorter version of the film for the town Board of Realtors to use, he added. The film was also featured on The Huffington Post in December.

Selling it

Addessi said the project has collected $46,000 in backing from private contributors, far more than its original goal of $25,000.

The business owner said he’s increasing the project’s new goal to $100,000, with the aim of hiring a marketing agency to manage the endeavor. He said the project is on track to reach that goal in early 2018.

“I would say by the end of February,” he told The Press.

“One local top-tier executive and his wife came to shop with us last weekend. They had heard of the effort, we had a discussion, and by Tuesday I had a check on my desk for $5,000,” said Addessi in a press release.

“I just can’t stop talking about this,” he added. “Restaurants are coming on board, property owners, the Board of Realtors, and a leading family and developer among them.”

Addessi said the group of Ridgefielders involved in the plan would be holding its next meeting at the Lounsbury House Wednesday, Jan. 17. They hope to finalize a plan to raise the additional $55,000 the plan will require at that meeting, Addessi said.

The group will also meet with the Board of Selectmen to discuss aligning the fund with the nonprofit Friends of Ridgefield as a depository.

Goals

Chief among the project’s goals would be revamping the Chamber of Commerce’s Destination Ridgefield website.

“Digital engagement is very important for any business today,” Addessi said. “We carry our phones in our back pockets.” For that reason, he explained, the landing page on the Chamber’s site has to hook the viewer in immediately.

Addessi pointed out that Ridgefield won’t be the only town to use a marketing agency to promote itself online. He pointed to a website created for the town of Washington, Conn., which features a rolling film clip of scenes from around the town — couples shopping in the town’s shops, boaters relaxing on a sun-drenched lake, and even aerial footage of the green hills around town.

It’s that sort of excitement and engagement Addessi hopes Ridgefield’s marketing efforts will attract to the town.

The project will focus on “a digital platform with a website, social media, several videos, and storytelling,” said Addessi.

He wouldn’t say just yet who or which agencies the project would hire for each of those roles — that decision will be made later this year.

Asked whether he was concerned that business owners who don’t contribute to the project would essentially get free advertising, Addessi shrugged. “That’s OK,” he said.

The benefits of the program would help the town overall, he argued.

Addessi said his “biggest concern” is that the project not lose steam after one year of advertising for the town. He said he views the venture like cost-sharing advertising, where a retailer and a supplier split the costs of advertising, since it benefits them both.

“There’s so much talent here already,” Addessi said.