UTICA — On a crisp, but clear, Wednesday evening, families flocked to the Utica Christmas Walk, signing up for special raffles, sampling Christmas treats and shopping at local stores.
“It’s awesome,” said Rine’s Country Store owner Stephanie Rine of the turnout. “We’ve only been open two months and I’m happy to see everyone come and see what we offer.”
“Isn’t it wonderful?” said Ann Weeks of Plainfield, who was on hand to help her friend Stephanie and was signing up people for a free bag of toys and candy.
Jessica Quinif of Utica was picking up a couple of bottles of special sodas, said she and her family come every year and they try to visit every place on the walk.
“My daughter’s in the choir, so I come for that and then we visit the stores.”
Jeff Dalzell, owner of “Now and Then and Over Again,” an antique store in the former Ben Franklin Store, who has been open for two years, said that not only does he think there were more people this year, “More are buying tonight.”
Derek Rose and Connie Evans of Utica said they love to look at all the old things. Rose said he especially loves to look at examples of old photography and Evans said she’s always looking for something to take on “Antique Roadshow.”
“That’s my ambition,” she laughed.
“We just love old history,” said Rose. “I think they need to teach more about local history in schools.”
Moving along the street, there was also no reason to go hungry. In front of Watts Restaurant, soup and ice cream bars were being handed out. Owl Creek Baptist Church had a variety of cookies, and at the Utica Fire Department, free hot chocolate was a welcome way to warm up after being out in the cold.
As the evening ended, one firefighter said they had given out 400 cups of hot chocolate.
But the cold wasn’t keeping kids from being lined up to see Santa Claus in a hut next to the Utica Presbyterian Church, where Christmas carols were also playing over the loudspeakers.
In front of her office, Diane Walsh of the Real Living Home Team was handing out pens and calendars featuring cookie recipes as well as signing people up for a raffle.
Rebekah Garno of Rebekah’s Enchanted Images said quite a few people were taking advantage of a chance for Christmas pictures.
And at the CES Credit Union, people could meet a pair of reindeer up close and personal.
The reindeer were from Bella Noel of Bellville. Doni Hoeflich said they take the reindeer to events like this all over Ohio. The reindeer took it all in stride, standing calmly while people stroked their noses and necks.