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© Allison Usavage

Presents on the Commons

Presents on the Commons is a scavenger hunt where everyone wins! Organized by Scott Morris, the founder of Ithacash, the scavenger hunt is a perfect example of businesses helping businesses and a great example of the camraderie that exists in our downtown business community.It encourages Ithacans to visit downtown merchants for their holiday shopping while jump-starting the circulation of the new regional currency, Ithaca Dollars.

A Q&A with Scott and pictures from participating shops and the grand prize unveiling (read on to learn more!).

What is the scavenger hunt?

Presents on the Commons is a fun, family-friendly scavenger hunt that is a great reason for people to go downtown and do their holiday shopping.


Who is it good for?

It’s good for anyone who wants to play! You can be 6, you can be 60. Come downtown and get a map and hunt down some of these hidden gifts. Get stickers on your map. Each sticker is worth 1 raffle entry, 1 Ithaca Dollar (i$) as a donation to a charity of your choice, and i$5 for you. So, no matter what, whether you win a raffle prize or not, you come away a winner. We’ve got 56 of these things out there and you get i$5 each, so you can have as many as i$280 by the time you complete the map. Not bad!


What change are you trying to make?

We’re trying to support the retailers down on the Commons. Right now, the feeling is that the merchants down there are struggling with the construction and from the potential customer’s perspective, that feels kind of icky. We want to change that dynamic and give a new story of something fun to attract people downtown that puts all of the struggles and the angst around the construction on the back burner.


© Allison Usavage
How did this come about?

Ithacash is a new regional currency program for Ithaca and the Finger Lakes. When you’re starting out a currency system you’ve got a chicken and egg scenario. On one hand, you need merchants where people can spend the money, and on the other hand, you need people with the money to spend. So we’re doing this campaign as a way to build good will with those retailers in the Commons and to demonstrate to them that we’re here, we’re creative thinkers, we’re on your team, and we can deliver traffic.


What impact does this have on our community?

Delivering traffic into the retailers… that’s the true point of the scavenger hunt, to help the downtown retailers finish the year strong.


© Allison Usavage
How has the community supported this project?

You can feel that a majority of the merchants are really happy that somebody is doing some thinking about ways to give them some traffic. That’s really what it boils down to when you’re a retailer: you’ve gotta get feet through the door.


© Allison Usavage
What struggles have you encountered?

I’ve never gone to the community with a sponsorship ask before. That was challenging. I didn’t really know how to go about that, how to map all that out, but it was so successful!


What should we be celebrating?

We should be celebrating that we have a robust, diverse, locally- and independently-owned downtown district. There are so so many towns that have already lost out to the big box shops and to online shopping and they don’t have a main street anymore. We should treasure and celebrate our main street district.


© Allison Usavage
How can we participate?

Go to any of the participating retail locations downtown, get yourself a map. Once you have a map, pick a location, go inside, hunt down the present. Once you find it you’ll get your sticker from that retailer and you keep going from there!

We have a number of great gift cards that have been offered as raffle prizes. Every sticker you get is one raffle entry.

If you get over 28 stickers then you’ll qualify for the grand prize: we’re offering a briefcase full of Ithacash worth i$1500. There’s also second and third prizes worth i$1000 and i$500. You’re welcome to go see this briefcase encased in a column of ice downtown alongside the ice bar and the ice carving competition. It’s a sight to be seen!


Or, learn more about Ithacash at


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