ROCKINGHAM, N.C. — For wide-eyed tykes clutching candy canes and Christmas lists, a moment on Santa’s lap is the main event.
For knitters, woodcarvers and crafters of all trades, Christmas on the Square is a chance to show off their wares and see the hobbies they’ve painstakingly pursued pay off.
About 50 vendors have registered for the 19th annual yuletide celebration in downtown Rockingham’s Harrington Square, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 5. Carolyn Ford, who chairs the Rockingham Downtown Corp. committee tasked with organizing the event, said she hopes to sign up 100 or more.
“I’m not crazy on commercializing Christmas,” Ford said, “but this event is to bring as many people downtown as possible for these vendors, because this is really what gets a lot of them through the Christmas season.”
Richmond County residents can find unique handmade Christmas gifts for relatives and friends at the annual craft fair. Many vendors return each year, but the lineup of handmade merchandise changes as artisans hone new crafts.
“I just like the fact that most of the vendors who come to sell crafts are people who just do it for hobbies,” Ford said. “Christmas on the Square might be the only festival they come to. It gives them a chance to showcase their talents.”
Five food vendors have signed up to serve treats at the festival, including a Maxton barbecue house’s food truck. The roster of booths will include three hospice groups and the Rockingham Police Department’s child fingerprinting station, with crafters filling the majority of space on the square.
“They have a booth and they also walk the roads the whole time,” Ford said of the police department. “They are there for us and they are visible. The vendors are very thankful for that.”
Small businesses and nonprofits pay $50 for booth space, while for-profit food vendors pay a $100 fee. Christmas on the Square expects to receive a $1,600 grant from the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority to cover festival advertising costs.
Weather permitting, Santa Claus will greet children on the sealed Harrington Square fountain. The jolly old elf will hold court inside the Richmond Community Theatre in the event of rain.
Christmas on the Square will feature a free kids’ zone with an inflatable slide, bounce castle and rock-climbing wall. A kiddie train and petting zoo will add to the holiday fun. Pony rides will be available for $3 and Ford said a camel may join the caravan this year.
“If we invite the churches and schools, then every school who’s there is going to have grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles coming out,” Ford said. “As long as the kids are sticking around, their parents are here sticking around and shopping.”
The festival also will include a classic car show and child safety seat demonstrations from Safe Kids funded through a Governor’s Highway Safety Program grant.
While attendees shop for Christmas gifts from local merchants, they’re also encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys or cash donations for the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots campaign.
Fron 2-3 p.m., the Richmond Senior High School marching band will be at Pattan’s Downtown Grille. The Marching Raiders will treat afternoon attendees to an eight-minute program and a medley of Christmas songs on the square.
“Everything’s on track,” Ford said. “There will always be something going on that day.”
For more information about Christmas on the Square or for a vendor application, call Ford at 910-895-9088 or 910-995-2986.