By: Ali Elizabeth Turner For the 31st year in a row, the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce and Athens Main Street are hosting the Annual Athens Christmas Open House and Merry Market. And once again, Athenians and folks from all over the Tennessee Valley are going to get a chance to skate on the square! No matter how warm it may be the weekend of November 17-19, we are going to have ice skating and blizzard bashes on the Square as part of the festivities. This year’s theme is “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” a classic Christmas tune made famous by a 13- year-old recording artist by the name of Brenda Lee beginning back in 1958. With the new sound system in place at the Limestone County Courthouse, Christmas Open House will feature rockin’ music around the square and live entertainment while people shop, skate, and rock. Jennifer Williamson, President of the Greater Limestone County Chamber, got the idea to bring a skating rink to Athens from the Chamber in Andalusia, Alabama during their annual holiday event, Candyland. The “ice” for the rink is a synthetic plastic that you can skate on. It is eco-friendly and it made from a non-toxic, recyclable acrylic material. It looks and skates like real ice. This synthetic ice can be used year-round, indoors or outdoors, and in any climate conditions. They construct a rink complete with railings, decorate it, bring about 100 pairs of skates to rent; there will be snow machines with “blizzard bashes” every hour. The cost is $5 per person to skate. The skating rink will be located on the west side of the Courthouse and will be open Friday 4 p.m. – 8 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. Last year I was one of the vendors at the Merry Market held upstairs at the Center for Lifelong Learning, and I was determined to take a break from “the Market” to steal downstairs to take a spin around the “ice.” I found that my childhood skating muscle memory sprang into action, and I didn’t even need to hang on for dear life to the rails around the perimeter! I can say from experience that it was great fun. Of course, all of the other traditional features of the Christmas Open House are going to be available for our holiday enjoyment. Santa will be on hand for photos in the Center for Lifelong Learning from on Saturday from 2 p.m.-4 p.m., and Sunday from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. And, rest assured, Santa won’t be alone. Be on the lookout for other Christmas characters to make their appearance at Christmas Open House. Participating merchants will have refreshments and door prizes, along with special sales. For the merchants that are not technically on the Square but are participating in the Open House, be on the lookout for their “Elf On The Store Shelf.” These merchants will have an elf hidden somewhere in the store. If you find it, you will receive a prize from the Chamber. And, don’t forget about the 3rd Annual Tacky Holiday Sweater Contest. The contest is open to men, women, and children, and is back by popular demand. Please make sure your sweater is family friendly, and do your best to find the goofiest sweater possible. You will most definitely be adding to the merriment! The contest will take place on Saturday at 3 p.m. on the steps of the west side of the Courthouse. As always, you may catch some of our local performers singing carols and other musical entertainment around the Square and treating us to the songs that are such a treasured part of our holiday season. Tom McClung will be performing on Friday night from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. on the west side Courthouse steps and the Jimmy Henderson Trio will be performing Saturday from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. on the west side Courthouse steps. We are also excited to showcase a new activity during Christmas Open House. There will be a Light Show on the Courthouse to Christmas music on Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. For merchants who do not have a brick and mortar business, the Merry Market will be held upstairs in the Center for Lifelong Learning, located at 121 S Marion Street. There will be a wide variety of direct sales vendors, artisans, cottage crafts, and more. The Merry Market will be open all three days of the Open House. Another popular feature returning this year will be Santa’s Wrapping Station, which will also be located at the Center for Lifelong Learning. Any purchases made at a participating Christmas Open House merchant’s store during Christmas Open House weekend will receive FREE gift wrapping. In order to use the service, a valid receipt must be shown to “the wrappers.” As is the case with all the wonderful events that we get to enjoy in Limestone County, none of it could happen without sponsors and volunteers. Once again our presenting sponsor is Martin & Cobey Construction. There is also going to be a grand prize drawing, which will be provided by Hobbs Jewelers. Bring your family and enjoy the beginning of what will be a very special holiday season. For more information, call the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce at 256-232-2600 or visit the event Facebook page at Athens, Alabama Christmas Open House. By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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