It’s been a rough year for businesses and residents alike. In two Montcalm County villages, citizens have decided that it’s especially important to bring some holiday cheer — and a little bit of normalcy — to the last month of 2020.
In Edmore, the annual Christmas in the Village has been canceled due to restrictions in crowd size and concerns for the health of the community amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Village Manager Justin Lakamper. But the Mid Michigan Arts Council’s pop-up event at the Marketplace is bringing fine art, crafts and the opportunity to shop for one-of-a-kind gifts in a festive atmosphere through Dec. 12. Items in the Arts Council’s own shop will remain open until closer to Christmas.
More than 40 pop-up vendors are offering art in a wide variety of media, including paintings, woodworking, fiber arts, collage, ceramics, sculpture, digital art, photography, and jewelry; as well as a range of beauty products and craft and thrift items.
Because the event is spread out across two floors, there is plenty of room to bring in diverse talents from across the community, said Alyx Halsey, treasurer of the Mid Michigan Arts Council. Shoppers will find items from $1 to “probably thousands of dollars,” she said.
“We’ve tried to keep it toward fine arts, but also be inclusive,” she said. “It’s been really nice to have the crafters come.”
There’s also a table set up with stationery for children to stop and write a letter to Santa while their parents shop.
The amount of participation by vendors and shoppers and sales have been better than what was projected, according to Halsey. Vendors can drop their pieces off in their booth and not stay to staff it. Arts council volunteers keep the space filled and handle all the sales for vendors.
“It’s a different feeling. It feels very laid back and casual when you’re shopping,” Halsey said. “When it’s spread over 10 days, you’re getting more people, but it doesn’t feel like that many people. It’s nice having a steady amount of people spread over time.”
Vendors pay a 20% commission on their sales to the arts council in exchange for set-up, advertising, bags and credit card fees. This pays off, especially for vendors who don’t typically take credit cards.
“A lot of people pay with debit and credit cards, so you get sales you normally wouldn’t,” Halsey noted.
One benefit of the pandemic has been the opportunity to figure out how to still do events and offer platforms for artists. Halsey said the arts council has been pleased with the success of this pop-up event, and will probably continue to do them three or four times next year.
“We wouldn’t have created it otherwise,” she said. “We have had to scramble to find creative ways to make it still feel festive.”
Another offering is holiday- or winter-themed “take-and-make” art kits that shoppers can pick up and do at home with their children as gifts — or adults can do by themselves to de-stress.
“They might be good gifts for stocking stuffers,” Halsey added.
On Dec. 12, an Edmore Christmas Crawl is planned through local shops from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Businesses will create their own specials and events, and shoppers will have a chance to win $250 in cash by visiting each business and getting their card punched at check-out.
“It’s a way to support local businesses in lieu of the other things (that have been canceled),” Halsey said.
Watch the Edmore Marketplace and Mid Michigan Arts Council’s Facebook pages for more activities in the works, or call Halsey at (517) 230-9466.
The Festivals Committee plans to carry on with its Christmas in Lakeview event on Dec. 5, with some changes.
“Rather than congregating, we can do it as a walk-through type of thing,” said Chad Lincoln, committee chair. “For residents, it will bring a little extra joy in a year of ‘not joy.’ The village has decorations up, and most of the stores have decorations up, so it’s looking lively.”
The event also benefits small businesses, crafters and other vendors, Lincoln noted. A Craft & Vendors Show will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Tamarack Place.
“These crafters and vendors haven’t been able to do much, and in conjunction with Small Business Saturday, it’s a chance to sell some of their stuff,” he said.
Most of the usual inside activities have transitioned to take-and-make crafts provided by each store. The only event that is “a no-go,” said Lincoln, is cookie decorating at McKenna’s.
The Christmas Light Decorating Challenge will go on for homes and businesses, with judging on Dec. 4 and winners announced at 9 p.m. Dec. 5 at a wrap-up party at McKenna’s. Prizes of $500, $300 and $100 will be awarded, along with a trophy for the winning business.
“The trophy gets passed to the winning business each year as bragging rights,” Lincoln said.
Also at McKenna’s will be the raffle for a $1,000 Visa gift card, along with a chili cook-off and live music.
“We’ve been in pretty good communication with the health department, and we have recommendations to follow,” said Lincoln.
He is hoping for some decent weather that night, especially in light of the fireworks display planned for 8 p.m. The park would provide “optimal viewing opportunities,” Lincoln added.
Other activities planned for the Christmas in Lakeview event include a bird feeders craft at Lakeview Elevator, children’s take and make crafts at the Peddler’s Patch, and goodie bags available at various stores. Donations of new hats, coats and gloves for the coat drive can be dropped off at McKenna’s as well.
For more details and times of scheduled activities, visit lakeviewfestivals.org online.