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Rain can't dampen Christmas spirit in Markle

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LISTEN: A little girl listens intently to Joan Sherlock read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at the Markle Branch Library.
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SPLASH: A group of people brave the cold water and rain for the second Polar Plunge at Markle Pool to raise money for families in need during Christmas in Our Town.
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READ: Joan Sherlock reads to a crowd of children during activities at the Markle Branch Library for Christmas in Our Town.
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SANTA: A group of children pose with Santa Claus at the Markle Fire Department Saturday morning
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COOKIES: A customer browses his options for some treats at Nadean’s Cookies/Cakes/Catering on Saturday afternoon.

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@h-ponline.com

The rain didn’t stop Christmas from coming to town in Markle yesterday, as crowds of families and friends gathered for pictures with Santa, stories in the library, shopping from local vendors and even a frigid splash in the Markle pool.

The events kicked off on Friday night with the lighting of the Christmas tree in Veterans Park and continued throughout the day yesterday.

Christmas music played loudly throughout the shops and outside, while people walked briskly through the rain to go from place to place, soaking in all of the Christmas activities.

Hillary Halsema, who is a member of the Markle Chamber of Commerce, owner of All Your Expectations event center and coordinator of the festive weekend, said most of the activities have taken place in years past, but this year one new feature was a bingo activity that was put together by Markle United Methodist Church.

Guests were able to mark off each activity on a bingo card, and once they achieved a bingo, they were able to trade it in for a free cookie at Nadean’s Cakes/Cookies/Catering.

Naden’s shop was filled with a sweet aroma, welcoming guests to stop in. Owner Nadean Brown said business had been good throughout the day, though the rainy weather put a slight damper on things.

Brown had a display of everything from cookies, pies and cakes to cinnamon bread. She said the popular item of the day was her sugar cream pie.

Back for a second year for Christmas in Our Town, those who braved the weather gathered at the Markle Pool for a Polar Plunge.

Pastor Chad Yoder with Markle United Methodist Church dressed in a Santa outfit to take the plunge and said he was as excited as he could be, but it was for a good cause.

“All the money that we raise from doing it goes toward local families in Markle,” he explained. “So we pick one or two families from the community that need some extra help at Christmas and basically give them all the donations for buying gifts for their kids and stuff like that. So that’s the main reason we do it. There’s a little bit of ‘it’s fun, too.’”

Another participant dressed in a chicken costume while others took to more of a summer look and went with their bathing suits. When the whistle blew, the group took a plunge into the cold water while the rain drizzled on but laughed and had high spirits through it all.

Others took their children around to some of the activities going on through town. Danielle Bennett joined other parents and families at the Markle Fire Department with her son for pictures and pancakes with Santa.

She said they were able to attend the tree lighting Friday night as well and planned on visiting the craft vendors at All Your Expectations and Exit 286 Antique Mall’s Christmas open house.

As for why Bennett believes Markle’s Christmas festivities are important, she said it’s important for any community to build traditions.

“I don’t think it’s just important to a small town like Markle, I think it’s just important as a whole. As families grow up and have those traditions, you start to do them for the rest of your life and pass it on down. And I think that’s important,” she explained.

Eric Bailey and his family have made attending Christmas in Our Town a tradition as well. He said they’ve been attending the events for nearly seven years, ever since their daughter was very young.

He and his wife sat and watched as one of their daughters played with Scrabble letters in the library and listened to the reading of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” from afar.

He said their favorite thing was watching their daughters enjoy the activities throughout the day, their favorites being taking part in the crafts and story telling.

Joan Sherlock read aloud to a crowd of young children with their parents wrapping around the walls of the children’s area of Markle Branch Library. Kids were fidgety yet engrossed with the reading of the popular Christmas tale, with smiles on their faces. Some even volunteered commentary along the way.

Sarah Best attended the festivities for the first time this year along with her family. She said her two children were able to visit with Santa in the morning and then while her husband took her nine month old son home for some rest, she took her daughter to All Your Expectations to take a look at some of the vendors’ set-ups.

To Best, she said events like Christmas in Our Town help keep small communities alive and thriving as they bring in not only locals, but potentially out-of-towners.

“It’s really important to a community, especially small communities like this. A lot of times they get forgotten about and things start shutting down and become empty, and it’s just something good to bring people in to see what’s here and keep business alive,” she explained. “And it’s really good community, getting to spend time with people and family and friends.”

She said she and her daughter were there just to browse around and say hello to friends who were there as vendors for the day, and her daughter piped up to suggest a “My First Christmas” ornament as an addition to their tree for her younger brother.

At Exit 286 Antique Mall, there were deals on items starting at 15 percent off, as well as hourly door prizes, refreshments and rows upon rows of antique Christmas decorations to choose from.

Lines of people browsed up and down the aisles and booths gazing at antique stuffed snowmen and place settings while classic Christmas music played in the background.

Halsema said this was her second year helping coordinate the events and said it’s enjoyable for the community because they have something for all ages.

“Just being able to have a little bit of something for everyone to be involved in is a big deal. It gets the whole community together, especially when lives get so busy during this season,” she said. “We have things for kids as young as three, and then the organ concert is generally an older crowd, 60 or 70 plus ... it’s nice to bring everybody together.”

Halsema said the events were also coordinated by the help of fellow committee and chamber members, Trisha Abbot, Nadean Brown, Shelby Dobson, Melissa Mounsey, Todd Bonvino and Sherri Thomas.