By ELI CHUNG
MOUNT VERNON — Downtown businesses spruced up their specialties with holiday spirit at this Saturday’s Christmas Showcase. This year’s theme was “Christmas in the Movies” for the window display contest but business showcases were not limited to the theme, according to Main Street Mount Vernon Director Carrie Hyman.
Some businesses offered special Christmas-themed activities and events.
Paragraph’s Bookstore hosted a book-signing event with New York Times best-selling author and illustrator Richard Cowdrey for his new children’s book, “A Very Fiona Christmas.” The story explores the meaning of Christmas through a baby hippo in the zoo experiencing the holiday for the first time.
Because half of the bookstore’s window was still under construction after a car crashed into it in September, Paragraph’s did not participate in the window display contest. Nevertheless, Hanson said the bookstore saw a lot of customers.
“We have been swamped all day,” said Hanson. “I don’t know if it’s the switch or if it’s Richard.”
The “switch” referred to Main Street Mount Vernon’s decision to extend the usual one-day Christmas Walk and Parade into a three-day festival.
In the past, the weekend after Thanksgiving would feature the Christmas Walk and Parade on Sunday — an open house opportunity for downtown business before and after the parade.
This year, Main Street Mount Vernon decided to organize the activities into a three-day event, with a tree lighting on Friday night, Christmas Showcase on Saturday and the Christmas Parade on Sunday.
Hymen said they wanted to create a “festival feel” by spreading out the activities over the weekend. Each activity got its own day dedicated to it.
While some people at the festival were not aware that the parade was on a separate day, those who knew said they preferred the three-day festival. One mother of two said traffic was less congested on each day, making her more willing to come out and participate.
Downtown businesses also said they preferred having a dedicated showcase day.
Artist and instructor Raeschell Noonen at Nimby Acre said that it was “less hectic, more user-friendly” and “more manageable.”
This was Noonen and Nimby Arce’s third Christmas on the square. Noonen said she was hesitant about changing the tradition at first but she ended up really preferring the three-day festival.
“It’s more enjoyable for everyone.” Noonen said. With foot traffic spread out over the day, she could give customers more individual attention. Noonen believed that customers also felt less rushed by the parade schedule and could take the time to look at and purchase products.
Mrs. Claus’ Workshop held several activities in the Williams Flower Shop ballroom. Children decorated Christmas cookies and wrote letters to Santa. There was also a face-painting station that sent off many children with colorful fairies, Christmas trees and butterflies on their smiling faces.
Kudos Artist Co-op continued its annual tradition of decorating two Christmas trees with handmade ornaments by local artists, including beeswax animals, ceramics, etched glass, miniature oil ink prints and fabric animals, among others.
Manager Marsha Ernst said it was great to have many activities downtown throughout the day.
“I’m really excited about the fact that there’s so much going on today that’s bringing people in,” Ernst said, standing in the packed store where customers continued to stream in.
Kudos’ holiday special activities do not end after the Christmas Festival. On Dec. 24, artist Susan Klemetti will lead a Japanese cloth gift wrapping workshop in the Kudos classroom.
“It is great for wrapping gifts that have irregular shapes,” said Ernst.
Meanwhile, Knox Labs offered its own Christmas special workshop for families and children to create their own Christmas ornaments using the laser cutter.
Board member Dwight Back volunteered for the showcase, teaching children to operate the laser cutter. Around the lab, children were holding and taking pictures with the fiberboard snowflakes they made with the machine.
“It’s a level of excitement for the kids,” Back said. “It’s like being on a Ferris wheel for the first time… Most of the people that came in here never used a laser (cutter) before. It’s a new machine and a new experience.”
Executive Director Todd Davis said it was a great opportunity to “get the community downtown and be able to walk away having been creative.”
Davis was an advocate for offering not just something to eat and something to drink but something to do at the festival as well.
Talking to festival-goers on the streets, some of the people’s favorite activities included live music and meeting Santa. Children especially loved the cookie walk, balloon animals at the Makery and the pony and train rides, while parents appreciated the lesser traffic and a more relaxed schedule to enjoy all the downtown activities with their children and family.
By LARRY DI GIOVANNI
FREDERICKTOWN — The charm of Saturday’s Fredericktown Old Fashioned Christmas Walk featured nine ice sculptures that attracted visitors to view them up close.
Included was a highly unusual “leg-themed lamp” ice sculpture from the movie “A Christmas Story,” and one from the movie “Elf” of Will Ferrell fame. That particular ice sculpture was titled “Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins,” a reference to Ferrell’s character being an unusually tall elf who struggled at times during toy making and delivery time. There was also a candy cane and gingerbread man, Rudolph the reindeer, Christmas tree, and an ice sculpture from the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”
To give them a special look, sculptures included a part clear, and part frosted-over look. They are the work of Rock on Ice owner/artist Greg Butauski, based in Sunbury. The sculptures are placed on top of a box in front of each business. Over the years, there have been some unusual ones — like a “tooth” on display last year for town dentist Robert Burns.
“They are definitely a draw,” said ice sculpture coordinator Joely Lepley, owner of TD Landscape, Inc. “People will make their way through town to make sure they have their pictures taken with each sculpture.
Such was true for Katie Simmons of Mount Vernon. She marveled at the “Rock on Ice” sculpture, with real flowers such as a rose and carnation frozen inside it, placed in front of Aunt Ruth’s Attic.
“The frozen flowers are so well done,” Simmons said. “They look real and are not shriveled up.”
At the Gazebo, Santa arrived in time to start the 5K Fun Run. Scott Huvler of Fredericktown participated in the run with his daughter and son-in-law, Hope and Alex Goricki, and daughter-in-law Montana Huvler. He got a bit of a laugh from the leg lamp sculpture before starting his run down Main Street and onto the bike path.
“I run one or two 5Ks a year,” he said. “They’re fun and they support the community.”
The ice sculptures range in cost from $200 to $250, the more expensive ones being for businesses that wished to have their business logo included, Lepley said. Sale proceeds are to be split evenly between the Fredericktown locations of Interchurch Social Services and the Salvation Army. They are the two beneficiaries this year of Old Fashioned Christmas Walk proceeds.
“I didn’t do one this year because they sold out,” Aunt Ruth’s Attic owner Bill Van Nostrand said of the ice sculptures.
Bill’s wife, Carol Van Nostrand, enjoyed perusing the Gingerbread House competition entries, 18 of them, which were all placed on a long table inside First Knox National Bank. She and her grandchildren took pictures of the gingerbread wonders as she finally decided to vote on her favorite — votes coming by way of a donation. She donated to the gingerbread house that was a tribute to the Fredericktown Water Department, complete with a red piece resembling a water storage unit.
“I just think it’s very clever. And my husband (Bill) is on the council, and I think the guys in our water department work real hard,” she said.
Bill enjoyed the “Santa Cents” activity, which helped draw visitors into stores such as his. The Santa Cents resembled wooden nickels, and were hidden throughout the downtown including the Public Square. The “cents” were worth from $1 to $5, and lucky finders took them into Fredericktown stores showing “We accept Santa Cents” signs in their windows.
Other Fredericktown Olde Fashioned Christmas Walk activities included a 5K fun run; ornament sales; a Santa at the Gazebo; a Gingerbread House Competition at First Knox National Bank; a live and silent charity auction in the Senior Center building; tractor rides around the lighted display at Sockman Park; live musical entertainment; and other goings-on including a Gazebo Tree Lighting Ceremony. There were also plenty of crafts for sale as well as food.
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