Rock Hill’s annual Christmas festival was in danger of being washed out after a rainy Saturday shut down some outside activities and forced many attendees indoors. But the crowds came out along with the sunshine on Sunday to close out ChristmasVille in Old Town.
The four-day festival closed Sunday with a musical concert and dance performance by the Winthrop University RockHettes on the East Main Street stage, capped off by a fireworks show.
“Aren’t you glad the weather held out this year so we could have an outdoor fireworks show?” asked Judy Hayes, the festival chair, standing alongside Santa Claus at the closing ceremony.
The crowds at Sunday’s events seemed to bounce back after the rains a day earlier forced the rides and games in the Winter Carnival along Dave Lyle Boulevard to shut down.
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“That did put a slight damper on things,” said Andrea Cooper, president of the ChristmasVille board. But even with the rain, the festival’s indoor activities continued. “We still had Santa’s Workshop going on behind the Five and Dine. And the Gettys Center has been showing Christmas movies all weekend while it was raining outside.”
Sunday’s better weather allowed the outdoor activities to resume, including the rock-climbing wall, pony rides and the Holiday Hounds costume contest. The visitors turned out to take advantage of the festival’s final day.
Marley Stewart, 12, won first place in the Holiday Hounds contest with her Maltese-Shih Tzu mix Oreo, who was dressed like the food he’s named after on Santa’s cookie plate. This was the fifth year in a row Marley has entered a dog in the contest.
“Last year, I was a snowman and he was Hocus Pocus,” the rabbit from “Frosty the Snowman,” she said.
Besides being more fun for the crowds, better weather meant more customers for the vendors who open stalls for this year’s festival. Lena Wells of Charlotte hand-painted 102 pieces of glassware for her table, and had managed to sell close to 40 of them by the close of the festival on Sunday.
“I would consider that a success,” Wells said of her first-ever experience selling her goods in this kind of venue. “And I got a lot of compliments from people, which was nice.”
Wells didn’t see much of a slowdown in Saturday’s business, probably helped by her location inside the covered Holiday Market on Caldwell Street.
“I actually sold a lot yesterday. There was a lot of foot traffic,” she said.
At the same time, some of ChristmasVille’s newer features focused on charitable giving. The Lego Design Contest awarded cash prizes to the most creative Christmas-themed constructions at the same time as it raised money for the Jeffrey Lee Williams Foundation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Other nonprofits took part in the Giving Tree contest, competing with each other to create the most spectacularly decorated Christmas tree.
“Every not-for-profit decorated their own tree, and the ones that received the most votes got a $500 donation,” Cooper said.
Returning attractions also featured new activities. Santa’s Workshop, in addition to granting an audience with the big man himself, allowed kids to write letters to first-responders and the opportunity to make their own Christmas cookies. Four-year-old Anna Rehman, eating her own idea of a cookie piled high with different icings and sprinkles, had a quick answer to the question of her favorite ChristmasVille activity:
“Riding the giant roller coaster,” she said, meaning the Ferris wheel slowly turning on Main Street.
Cooper said the festival’s organizers didn’t have a clear idea of how many people attended the four days of ChristmasVille, but they do have a way to measure the tourism impact of the event.
“We’ve been collecting ZIP codes,” she said. “Every time you purchase something from a vendor or buy a ticket, they’re asked where they came from. I know we’re also doing a count of cars in the parking lots and checking license plates.”
The ChristmasVille board should know what those figures look like later this week, Cooper said, well before the holiday season comes to a close and they begin planning next year’s festivities.