Christmas came to town

Esther Noe
Christmas came to Hill City with a flurry of festivities and snow last weekend. Things kicked off Nov. 24 with the Kris Kringle Vendor Fair, which allowed crafters a chance to show off their work, vendors a chance to market their products and shoppers a chance to purchase unique gifts. Despite the weather, 43 vendors made the trek to Hill City to set up their goods in the school gyms. 
There was an infinite number of jewelry options, home décor, leather work, food, quilted items, hair accessories, coffee, baked goods, purses, scarves, T-shirts, rocks, crocheted items, wreaths, Mary Kay makeup, Pampered Chef kitchenware and so much more. 
Linda Hodgin from Rapid City was among the vendors with her display of crocheted baby items, stuffed toys, scarves and ear warmers. On Friday morning, a customer sat and watched her crochet. Finally, he asked if Hodgin would be able to fix his grandma’s afghan since a dog had damaged it. Hodgin agreed to try so he brought the afghan in from the car. He was her first customer of the day. 
Hodgin started crocheting as a child since there was not a lot of modern entertainment when she was growing up. The most they had was radio, “so the hobbies were really important then. So I tell the young kids, get a hobby of some kind, building model cars, paint-by-numbers or something that you can go back to,” she said. 
As children stopped by her booth, Hodgin said, “I get a kick out of watching the kids and seeing what they like.” 
According to Hodgin, the toys sell the best. However, with any hobby where you make things, Hodgin said you can never sell them for enough to pay for the hours that went into it. Rather, she said, “You just do it to buy more yarn.”
Local Vicki Barlean also had a large display with everything from quilted items to lights made from old bottles and wood to snowmen made out of porch railings to Christmas frames made out of birch wood foraged from the forest. All of the items were handmade. 
Barlean said she creates like a butterfly bouncing from one thing to the next. One unique item on display was a set of purses made from the top half of Western jeans. 
Barlean had a friend pass away recently and got a load of his old clothes to make a memory blanket for his great-granddaughter. It was mostly Western shirts and jeans. Since you cannot use the top half of jeans on a quilt, Barlean had a box left over afterward. So, she decided to turn them into purses because they already had lots of pockets. 
Along with the vendors, there were also five raffle baskets to raise money for the Hill City Ambulance Service. These included a framed print of “Santa & the Mrs.,” a Custer State Park bundle, a pamper me basket, a family time bundle and a coffee basket. All told, the raffle raised $730 for the ambulance. 
“This town never ceases to amaze me. All we have to do is ask, and they are generous to a fault,” said Barlean. “When you consider the size of the town and the number of merchants, we’re hitting the same merchants up over and over and over and they still give.”
After buying the perfect gift, shoppers could then take their purchases to the wrapping station run by Roxann DuBois and her daughter Jazzalyn. At the wrapping station they had boxes, tissue paper, a selection of wrapping paper, ribbons, cards, tags and other little decorations to add. 
Roxann said this was their third or fourth year running the wrapping station, and they always do it for donations. This year all the donations were going to the Hill City Ambulance fund, and they raised $119.25. Roxann said they enjoy wrapping and barely had a break between customers all day Friday. 
All the visitors also had an opportunity to vote for their favorite in the Hill City Gingerbread House Contest. This year there were four creative, candied houses from local businesses to choose between. The winner of the People’s Choice Award was Gypsy Rose Tattoo Studio. 
Toward the end of the craft fair, a steady stream of around 100 visitors stopped by the Hill City Center to have snacks with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. Visitors came from multiple states as well as the areas surrounding Hill City. A family reunion even stopped in to get a picture with Santa. 
As children walked in their eyes were wide with wonder. Santa and Mrs. Claus helped the children on their laps and asked if they had been good this year. Many children responded that they were on the nice list and did not fight with their siblings too much. Then, they told Santa all their Christmas wishes. 
Many of the children asked for Pokémon cards, dolls, Rainbow Loom rubber bands, Legos, Nerf gun bullets, 3D puzzles, basketballs and other toys. 
After hearing the wishes each child received a bag of reindeer food to put out on Christmas Eve and an apple. There were brownies and candy canes for everyone to enjoy as well. 
The South Dakota State Railroad Museum also saw a steady stream of visitors for the Trees and Trains exhibit. This year there are 18 unique trees decorated by local businesses. These range from traditional trees to a dinosaur from the Black Hills Institute to a train car carrying a tree from the Hill City Public Library. 
“We have a great variety of trees this year,” said Rick Mills. 
After looking at the trees, visitors can vote for their favorite. The People’s Choice Award will be announced the week after Christmas. 
“It’s just a fun time for us,” said Mikal Lewis. 
Back in the library, visitors could get professional photos taken with Santa Claus. One family came to get their picture taken for the ninth year in a row. Santa will be at the museum every weekend in December for photos. They are one for $10 or three for $25. 
Come evening a huge crowd gathered around the Alpine Inn for cookies, apple cider and roasted chestnuts before the Olde Tyme Christmas Lighted Parade. 
This year Janet Wetovick-Bily said a lot of their regulars for the parade were out of town or busy, but they still ended up with a long list of “pretty spectacular floats.” 
A family from Rapid City agreed, saying, “You guys have the best parade.”
The line-up included multiple fire engines and ambulances as well as floats from the Public Works Department, Diamond Spur Events Center, High Country Guest Ranch, Hill City Public Library, Dallas Alexander Construction, Hill City Lions Club, Granite Sports and many more. 
As floats went past, candy was tossed to the crowd, and children and adults alike dove through the snow to pick it up. After around 40 minutes, the parade came to a close, and the crowds dispersed. 
As one man walked away, he shook his head and said, “This town is magical.”

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