It might seem odd in a drought with near record temperatures to be thinking about Christmas, let alone the prospect of winter actually eventually getting here. However, due to some remarkable technology, this year as a part of the 30th Annual Athens Christmas Open House and Merry Market, Athenians and folks from all over the Tennessee Valley are going to get a chance to ice skate! And, no matter how warm it may be the weekend of November 18-20, we are going to have “real live snow” on the Square. How did this “Miracle on Marion Street” happen?
I spoke with Jennifer Williamson, our local Chamber Director, who got the ice skating idea from the Andalusia Chamber of Commerce and their holiday event, Candyland. The “ice” for the rink is a synthetic ice made of a high-tech plastic that you can skate on. It is eco-friendly and it made from a non-toxic, recyclable acrylic material. It looks and feels like real ice and real ice skating! 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, and snow machines with “blizzard bashes” every thirty minutes. The cost is $5 per person to skate. It will be set up on the West side of the Courthouse where the Storytelling Tent is annually located, and will be open Friday through Sunday. I am going to be one of the vendors at the Merry Market held upstairs at the Center for Lifelong Learning, but I am definitely going to strap on skates and skate around the rink, even if I have to hang on to the lovely railing for dear life! The Ice Rink will be open on Friday, Nov. 18, 3-7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 20, 1-4 p.m.
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 5-7 pm on Friday night, Saturday from 2-4 pm, and Sunday from 2-4 pm. And, this year the photos will be free of charge! 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, once again there will be the “Elf on the Shelf” contest. 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 2nd 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!
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.
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 new feature 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. This year’s presenting sponsor is Martin & Cobey Construction. There is also going to be a grand prize drawing, which will once again 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.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner