Christmasville ends in rain, but still plenty of cheer

jzou@heraldonline.comDecember 8, 2013 

Wet weather coupled with a cold snap put a damper on Christmasville festivities in Rock Hill this past weekend as event organizers scrambled to relocate and cancel some events.

The eighth annual four-day celebration of all-things-Christmas came to a close Sunday night at the City Club of Rock Hill, minus scheduled fireworks that were canceled due to inclement weather.

But even though conditions weren’t ideal, organizers and attendees tried to make the best of the situation in light of the holiday season.

“I could have been really upset,” said Debbie Garrick, this year’s festival chair and associate vice president of Winthrop University. “There are things you can’t control, but you can control your attitude.”

Garrick is one of several people who worked behind the scenes for the past year to plan the festival, which boasts dozens of events. Annual favorites such as Snow Village, which features real snow and carnival staples such as the Ferris wheel and carousel, were rained out.

Other outdoor events, including the opening Lighting of the Village, were moved to rain locations.

Garrick said hurdles started as early as Tuesday when Mother Goose called to tell her she had laryngitis the morning of Santa’s arrival to Rock Hill. “I just sat there and laughed,” Garrick said. “But the show went on.”

Mother Goose wasn’t the only one under the weather. Santa Dave was battling a bad case of bronchitis Sunday afternoon as he greeted families and took photos with children at his workshop.

“I was out working with the reindeer and got sick,” said Santa Dave. But he added that a good night’s rest at the North Pole along with meeting local children should speed up his recovery.

Families took their photos with Santa at a designated spot farther away from the jolly saint to ensure no one else would catch his pesky cold.

The festival also heavily showcased the artwork of Rock Hill favorite Vernon Grant, the creator behind the Rice Krispies trio, Snap, Krackle and Pop. Grant’s renderings of Santa Claus and other holiday scenes adorned lampposts along Main Street as well as the walls of The Center for the Arts.

Ice sculptors carved an icy rendition of Grant’s Santa with a gnome sitting on his shoulder.

Cathy Murphy, an event organizer and Rock Hill downtown development manager, said the icy weather added to the festival’s theme. “It does make you feel more in the spirit of the season,” said Murphy.

She said next year she’s hoping to expand on the festival’s “quaint, old-fashioned” feel and to better cement alternatives should similar weather arise again.

The weekend’s wet and cold weather was a sharp contrast to Friday night, when temperatures lingered at a balmy 70 degrees for the festival’s annual parade featuring more than 80 floats and groups.

This year, organizers made it a point to make Santa’s workshop more accessible, moving it from the amphitheater to an outdoor tent. New lighting and signs also were added. The holiday market was also held in a heated tent.

Deannie Barr, the owner of Earth ’n’ Oats Soaps in Matthews, N.C., was one of several vendors participating in the festival’s market. Barr said business fluctuated throughout the three days she was stationed in the tent, but that overall she would be glad to come back next year.

Brittany Kelly, a mother of three from Rock Hill, appreciated the more accessible workshop and said that organizers did a better job this year of spreading out the plethora of events.

“I’m bummed to see so many things canceled, but I completely understand,” said Kelly, who is a regular Christmasville goer. Kelly attended the festival with her husband Michael, 1-year-old Mazie, 3-year-old Ella, and 7-year-old Lola.

Even though Lola accidentally smashed her finger during the weekend of the festival, the family still made sure to see Santa. “That’s all they cared about,” Kelly said.

Jie Jenny Zou •  803-329-4062

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