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MOUNT VERNON — Inside Main Street stores during the annual Christmas Walk and Parade, busy shop owners offered experiences like building your own paper house Christmas ornaments, meeting a local artist who signed his books about whimsical cartoon-like characters and touring a local opera house under construction.

The in-store festivities started as early as noon Sunday on a balmy late November afternoon — an hour before the scheduled start time of the day’s festivities. Shop owners provided cider, cookies and carolers — and gifts with prices lowered in many cases.

At The Makery at 1 N. Main St., a shop offering handcrafted items and classes in such areas as embroidery and knitting, owner Kimberly Gum had a few tables set up where parents and children made their own paper house ornaments. A donation per paper house was requested to benefit Toys for Tots of Knox County.

“It’s fascinating to watch people make something,” said Gum, an embroidery specialist. “We try to keep the handmade arts thriving at our store.”

Diana Ready, dressed as Minnie Mouse, marveled at how well Isabella Fontaine, 15, of Mount Vernon, worked with mothers and their small children as young as four to make the house ornaments. Ready was part of the Hope Now Furniture Bank parade float, with two men on the blue truck who sanded down toys for all to see. She wanted to see some of the stores and their items before the parade started.

At Kudos Artist Co-Op at 10 S. Main St., decorative ornaments on Christmas trees — from beeswax angels to stars crafted of fiber — beckoned potential buyers. Co-Op founder and manager Marcia Ernst said buying the ornaments supports the 23 local artists who made them.

“They get to keep nearly 100 percent of what they sell, except for a little bit held to keep our doors open,” Ernst said, while adding that each artist works about 1.5 days a month — on jobs like bookkeeping — to make it all work. “One of our artists who was here about seven years was our window washer,” she said.

Inside The Jolly Dog gift shop on North Main, artist-illustrator Tim Bowers signed books such as his holiday-themed “Snow Dog, Go Dog.” Bowers is known for his colorful characters including a book series based around “Rappy,” a rhyming velociraptor who goes to Mars with green aliens in his most recent installment. But Bowers, who sells stuffed animals and other items — including musical instruments — provides an assortment of treasures.

“My daughter wants to try out one of your ukuleles,” one of his potential customers said.

At about 1 p.m. Sunday, as thousands of eager parents and children started lining up along Main Street to get a choice spot for parade viewing, they also enjoyed some non-parade activities. Long lines formed to ride a miniature train and all of its cars, as well as for the carousel. A large inflatable Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer on the Public Square was tailor-made for picture taking. So were the donkey, baby cow, pony and Spanish La Manchan goat at the petting zoo. John Weekley and his wife, Janet, of Mount Vernon, ran the petting zoo, owned by Patti Smith. Smith also owned and drove the white carriage during the parade that provided seating for grand marshal Bonnie Coe, president of Central Ohio Technical College, and her husband, Larry.

“Our daughter (Madisyn Weekley) is with Patti,” John Weekley said. “That’s how we got this (petting zoo) job.”

Parade spectators took in everything from red-and-white toy soldiers on horseback, to adoptable dogs wearing reindeer antlers and Santa hats to floats of a Lego’s Toys theme. The child-centric parade, with more than 70 entries, also featured a walking panda bear waving alongside green-clad volunteers. They belonged to the group, Food For The Hungry. Mr. Potato Head-themed folks were also smiling on the parade route, representing their local church.

Chad Chadwick of Mount Vernon, watching the parade with his wife, Cassidy, and son, Case, 9 months, said the creativity of the parade entries was impressive. He watched as a German Shepherd with a red wig went by on a four-wheeler, in keeping with the “march of the toys” theme.

“It definitely must take a long time to put all these floats together,” he said.

The last but not least parade participant was Santa himself. Then it was off to make his merry way through a small sea of children before sitting down in his Santa house in the middle of Public Square.

“He (Santa) has a heart for the downtown,” said Carrie Hyman, director of Main Street Mount Vernon. “He loves the downtown corridor and knows a lot about it.”

Santa will have his house open for children visits each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and on Christmas Eve.

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Larry Di Giovanni: 740-397-5333 or larry@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews




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