More Spirited Fun Awaits at A Gettysburg Christmas Festival
By Lisa Gregory
For Suzy Miller, it wasn’t the church bazaar she had prepared for—and certainly not the one she expected.
“It was divine intervention,” says Miller of Trinity United Church of Christ’s annual holiday bazaar.
A portion of the 2018 bazaar had been scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 1, overlapping with the first A Gettysburg Christmas Festival. Choosing that date for the bazaar meant that the crowds coming to the festival would make a stop at the church’s event.
In all her years as a bazaar organizer and participant, Miller had never seen anything like it.
That Friday, the first day of the bazaar, was normal. “We had our usual people. Our usual crowd,” she recalls.
Saturday, however, was like no other. “When we opened the doors at 8:00, people were lined up on the sidewalk, waiting to get in,” she says. And, according to Miller, that line would remain steady for most of the day. “It was just a mass of people,” she says.
The first A Gettysburg Christmas Festival was quite the hit, as Miller can certainly attest. And this year’s festival promises to be even better, according to Deb Adamik, president and CEO of Main Street Gettysburg. “It’s like a brand new festival in many ways,” she says.
The festival, presented by Main Street Gettysburg, is made possible by the Gettysburg Heritage Center in partnership with the Gettysburg Nature Alliance, New Leaf Paper, and FutureStake Inc. Adamik hopes the festival will “foster a sense of community, highlight Gettysburg’s historic significance and small town feel, and have a positive economic impact on the town,” she says.
In planning this year’s festival, much was learned from the first one, and adjustments were made accordingly, says Annie Frazee, vice president of Main Street Gettysburg. “We received feedback from last year’s festival, and we listened,” she says.
For example, last year’s festival was held on a single day. This year’s festival will be a three-day event—December 6, 7, and 8—with a wide variety of activities and events spread over those days. More outdoor activities will be available, and streets will be closed to enable festival participants to move about more freely. According to Frazee, half of Lincoln Square as well as Baltimore Street to Steinwehr Avenue and Steinwehr Avenue to South Washington Street will be closed.
One aspect of the festival hasn’t changed, though. “This festival is about fun,” says Adamik. That fun includes a parade, music and entertainment, holiday movies, arts and crafts, food and drinks, winter activities, a Santa appearance, children’s activities, and shopping.
While history is an important part of Gettysburg, those like Charles Gable, borough manager, hope that the festival will show another side to the town. “We are more than just a Civil War town,” says Gable, a member of the festival’s planning committee. “There are a lot of other good things happening in this town.”
During the festival, Lincoln Square will be magically converted into Rudolph Square with its Reindeer Games activities and events; Steinwehr Avenue will become Winter Wonderland with thousands of lights and more than 20 live trees; and Baltimore Street will become Santa’s Central Depot, offering warm beverages at Santa’s Jolly Drinks.
Those who like to be physically active can participate in the Jingle Bell Dash, a one-mile fun run leading the Christmas parade through downtown Gettysburg. Those drawn to the arts can visit the Gingerbread Celebration and Holiday Mart, presented by the Adams County Arts Council, with its display of gingerbread houses that include stately Gettysburg landmarks. A big fan of live music? Make arrangements to check out a first-time ever concert at the Historic Gettysburg Courthouse with the a capella group Capital Blend, an all-female group from Washington, D.C.
In addition to those activities and events, check out demonstrations by an ice carver, a Mrs. Claus’ cookie eating contest, free carriage rides, a holiday photo booth, an Elfie Selfie Best Dressed at the Fest Contest, a holiday film fest at the historic Majestic Theater, as well as a live production of Disney’s “Frozen Jr.” at the Gettysburg Community Theatre. Plus, there will be spirit tastings at the Seminary Ridge Museum, a strolling fiddler and acrobats, a Family Jingle Rock concert, again performed by Capital Blend, and so much more.
“The holidays are a special time of year,” says Dru Neil, president of the Neil Strategy Group and a member of the planning committee. “So many people love this town for a variety of reasons, and we wanted to create something that would bring everyone together around the holidays.”
Given the response to last year’s festival, Timbrel Wallace, owner of the gift shop Lark, is anxious to see what this year’s festival will bring. Many were eager to shop last year at Gettysburg stores and businesses, she says. “It was my biggest sales day historically,” says Wallace, a member of the planning committee. “I had lines all day long with two cash registers going nonstop.”
And yet the mood was festive. “People had such a wonderful demeanor, even though there were forces working against them, most notably the weather,” she says of the rain that accompanied last year’s event. “The guests in my store were bringing kids along, family members, traveling in groups. They were slightly wet and a bit uncomfortable, but no one was irritable. It was a wonderful spirit.”
“It was a proud day for me,” she continues. “All these people in our town, experiencing it and having a good time.”
The festival’s impact was felt long after it ended. With this year’s festival right around the corner, Miller and her fellow bazaar organizers are feeling hopeful. There had been talk, says Miller, that the bazaar had run its course after four decades. But no more. The festival changed all of that.
“We’ve been busy getting ready for this year’s festival,” says Miller, smiling.
A Gettysburg Christmas Festival
December 6-8, 2019
Various times and locations throughout Gettysburg