McKinley Moore, left, and Lauren Kivi enjoy having their photo taken with Santa during Jingle Bell Holiday in Grinnell on Friday, Nov. 19.
By J.O. Parker
Stepping into Beckman Gallery on Main Street in Grinnell during the Jingle Bell Holiday Friday night, the welcome mat encouraged those entering to shop local.
That’s actually what they were doing as the long-time Grinnell business was filled with shoppers milling about checking out the home décor and Christmas items while enjoy a holiday treat and good company.
“It’s a great thing for our small businesses in Grinnell,” said owner Jim Beckman of opening for the annual Jingle Bell Holiday event held the Friday before Thanksgiving.
This year’s event, which was organized by the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by a host of businesses, was held on Friday, Nov. 19 from 5 – 8 p.m.
Down the street to the north, folks stopped for sweet treats at the Grin City Bakery and across the street at Brown Shoe Fit, shoppers stopped to check out the selection of shoes while warming their hands and their hearts to the music of Wind River, a bluegrass band featuring musicians from six states.
“I’m enjoying the music and festivities,” said Nicole Kiefer, while listening to the music.
“It’s a fun event that brings people together and to downtown Grinnell,” said Brown Shoe Fit owner and manager, Kyle Stock. “It’s a good thing we can get together as a whole community.”
The evening activities opened at 5 p.m. at the Central Park stage. Many in attendance were bundled in hats and coats to fight off the evening chill while watching performances by the Grinnell Children’s Choir followed by dancers from Michelle’s Dance Academy performing their holiday dance routine.
The holiday lights around the park were then turned on with a new voice activated command system by Grinnell Mayor Dan Agnew and Grinnell Chamber Director Rachael Kinnick as the large gathering counted down from 10.
This year’s decorating team was led by Jennifer and Kevin McAlexander and a host of volunteers including Michelle Butler, Kerri and Brian Olson, Esther Ware, Gailanne and Tim Dill, Bill Gruman, Bayer Crop Science team and more. Decorations will remain in the park through Dec. 31.
Just down the street from the park at Grinnell State Bank, Santa flew in on his sleigh with a jolly ho, ho, ho. Cory Hall Photography was on hand to take photos of youngsters posing with Santa.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Hall said of photographing Santa with area youngsters.
Thanks to the Dostal family of Toledo, horse-drawn carriage rides around the Grinnell business district were available throughout the evening with the pickup and drop off at the southeast corner of Central Park. Youngsters and adults were then able to pet the large horses after each ride.
At Hotel Grinnell, vendors filled the ballroom for the winter farmers’ market, selling everything from festive holiday decorative pieces to mittens, pies, spices, jewelry, kettle corn, books and much more.
“It’s wonderful seeing people getting out and welcoming the Jingle Bell Holiday season,” said vendor Sheryl Anderson.
“What a nice turnout,” added Shelly Hannah, who came to the farmers market for the first time with friend, Cindy Cloyed.
And across the ballroom, Cecilia Knight, Rita Mertenz and Jane Martenz, all representing the Grinnell Area Arts Council ceramic program, were selling handmade ceramic bowls for $20 during the program’s third annual Empty Bowls fundraiser for MICA (Mid Iowa Community Action).
“It’s going well,” said Jane Martenz. “We’ve had a lot of traffic and have sold a lot of empty bowls to help MICA.”
The Empty Bowls fundraiser is an outreach of the Stew Markerspace, a collaboration between the Grinnell Area Arts Council and the Wilson Center for Innovations and Leadership at Grinnell College. Stew Markerspace, which is located on Broad Street, houses spaces for ceramics, woodworking, 3D printing, metal working and more.
“I figured we would come check it out,” said Darrell Freeman of Grinnell, who attend the holiday event with his wife, Joy, both dressed in Renaissance period clothing.
"This is the first time to be at the winter farmers’ market,” said Beckey Anderson, who was selling Beez Kettle Corn and items from Beez Blooming Garden with her husband, Terry. “We are surprised at the turnout and the vendors here. There are some really nice things.”
“I’m pleased and excited to see good crowds tonight and happy to be here,” said Brian Olson, who owns the Grinnell-based Olson Garden Market with his wife, Kerri.
At Jensen Optometrists on Broad Street, area youngsters and adults had their photo taken with the Grinch at Whoville while enjoying sweet treats. Many other business offered holiday fare, sweet treats and hot cocoa to warm guests hearts all while supporting local businesses.
“We are having fun,” said Trae Butler, who was dressed as an elf with his girlfriend, Ella McAlexander, in a window display at Hawkeye Lock and Key. “The kids love it.”