Almost Famous Sweet and Sodas

One of the owners of Almost Famous Sweet and Sodas, Tia Vicars, is preparing for one of her store's busiest times — Christmas season. 

MOUNT VERNON -- One of Santa Claus’ reindeer, Dancer, peaks out behind a structure across a frost covered field in Thayer Ridge Park just south of Mount Vernon. An attached quick response code reveals the next hint of a puzzle — and a discount to a local business in Knox County.  

Thayer Ridge Park is one of several parks, river accesses and trails in which Santa Claus’ nine reindeer, and corresponding QR codes, can be found for Reindeer in the Park — a challenge run by the Knox County Park District to encourage people to shop local and donate to Knox County Food for the Hungry.

"This is new," administrative assistant for Knox County Park District Katie Hux said of the challenge. "Brand new."

Thayer Ridge Park

Thayer Ridge Park is one of several parks, river accesses and trails in Knox County where reindeer can be found for the challenge. 

In addition to encouraging local shopping and donations, Hux also sees Reindeer in the Parks as a community education tool.

"We are going to have our levy coming up, our park levy, so it's another educational tool to get people in the parks and see what is out there that their tax payer dollars are supporting," Hux said. 

When residents locate a reindeer, they will receive a QR code that reveals a local business and a corresponding coupon that they can use for holiday shopping. The next piece of the puzzle can be found at the local businesses, which have other QR codes in their storefront windows. These codes reveal letters that residents use to fill out a puzzle board, and will later unscramble to reveal a hidden message. 

The reindeer found in Thayer Ridge Park, for example, will direct participants to Almost Famous Sweet and Sodas in downtown Mount Vernon.

Aside from Easter, Christmas is Almost Famous Sweet and Sodas’ busiest time of year, said owner Tia Vicars. People can bring in stockings and Vicars will stuff them with various sweets, similar to how a candy basket would be crafted. 

Vicars, and her husband Nick Vicars, opened Almost Famous Sweet and Sodas in 2019. The store offers a variety of novelty candy, including vegan and gluten-free options, international products such as Japanese candy, and rare soda flavors. Recently, Almost Famous Sweet and Sodas has faced product delays, especially with their international supply.  

“Supply is horrible,” Vicars said. “It has gotten worse since June.”

Vicars ordered Christmas products in June, so preparing for holiday shopping has been a nearly half-year stretch, she said. 

Almost Famous Sweet and Sodas is not alone. Vicars has heard similar challenges increasingly voiced by other business owners in recent months during local merchant meetings, she said.

Vicars sees the Reindeer in the Parks event as a means to encourage the community to support one another.

“If we all support each other, it all comes full circle,” Vicars said. 

Almost Famous Sweets and Sodas

Participating local businesses have other QR codes posted in their storefronts, which upon scanning will reveal letters. 

The food donation component of Reindeer in the Parks comes in with the location of Mrs. Claus, who will be found at one of the stops and direct residents to Millwood Church of Christ. Millwood Church of Christ in Howard is collecting non-perishable items for Knox County Food for the Hungry.

Approximately 13% of Knox County residents are food insecure and 19% of children in the county are estimated to be food insecure, according to Knox Public Health’s 2021 community health assessment and Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap study.

While Knox County’s food insecurity rate is similar to the rate of Ohio as a whole, it is 20% higher than the national average.

The donations to Food For The Hungry will specifically benefit two local agencies – Interchurch Social Services and The Salvation Army — as well as smaller local food-based initiatives in Knox County. 

In addition to partnering with businesses for Reindeer in the Parks, Knox County Park District is working with Knox County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which will provide participants with a gift during the park district’s Fire and Ice event from 5 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the Wolf Run Regional Park. There will also be a prize drawing of $150 gift cards and gift baskets. 

The local businesses participating in the challenge are Animal Station, The Burg's Scoop Cafe, Longbranch Pizza, Payne-Campbell Red 1 Realty, Almost Famous Sweet and Sodas, Amato's Woodfired Pizza, Mount Vernon Inn, Blonde Robin, The White Oak Inn, Weaver's Farm and Furniture Store and Valley Kayak Rentals. 

Park locations include Heart of Ohio Trailhead, Thayer Ridge Park, Wolf Run Park, Big Run, Road River Access, Honey Run Highlands Park, Millwood River Access, Bridge of Dreams, Brinkhaven Park, Greer Landing and Bat Nest Park. 

Participants are asked to submit completed entries online. Additional information and details for the activity, including the puzzle board and google map, can also be accessed on the park district's website. 

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Emma Davis is a 2021 graduate of the University of Richmond, from which she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and leadership studies. Emma reports for Knox Pages and Ashland Source through Report for America.

Emma Davis is a 2021 graduate of the University of Richmond, from which she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and leadership studies. Emma reports for Knox Pages and Ashland Source through Report for America.