Fourteen years ago, when Anne Klapfish gathered a small group of people together to talk about the possibility of collaborating on an “old fashioned Christmas fair” on Thanksgiving weekend here in St. George, her main goal was to provide local seasonal retailers like herself with an opportunity to end the business year on a high note. In this respect, the idea—which the group called “Yuletide in St. George”—was not that different from the “Black Friday” concept used at shopping malls and in downtown shopping districts.
But as Yuletide became an annual event that grew to include a whole “trail” of venues winding through the town, it became apparent that there was also something different about Yuletide in St. George—and something much, much better than any kickoff to the holiday shopping season that a mall or big-town chamber of commerce had to offer. It was a difference, Klapfish thinks, that had to do with the St. George community’s growing involvement in the weekend.
“Yes, it’s a shopping day,” Klapfish acknowledges, noting that the St. George Business Alliance is now involved as a sponsor, “but it seems to me that over the years it’s become a time when in this community everybody just comes together in a spirit of conviviality and respect. People come for all the right reasons—to be part of a community and to support all aspects of what this community has to offer.”
This can be seen in the list of the event’s venues which today range not only from established, locally owned and operated retail shops like Klapfish’s Stonefish boutique, The Blue Tulip, and Mars Hall Gallery, but also to non-profit fundraising and service organizations like the Ocean View Grange, the Eastern Star, and the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum. So in stopping at the locations marked on the Yuletide map, participants can support in equal measure both local commerce and local causes. “People share the wealth from venue to venue to venue,” Klapfish points out.
Klapfish says she also particularly likes that the Madison Avenue-driven hype present at most shopping malls is absent from the St. George Yuletide event. “The things that are promoted most during Yuletide are the things that people here in St. George have made, whether the food they offer or their crafts and art,” she stresses, adding, “and you know you will run into people you know. People are in a good mood, there’s camaraderie. It’s a way to step into a holiday event at a scale and intimacy you don’t find elsewhere.”
Yuletide in St. George runs the Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend from 10-4. Some venues are open only a single day and some hours vary, so check the Yuletide map for details.
PHOTO: Betsy Welch