Gainesville Square was transformed into a Christmas wonderland worthy of a Dickensian novel on Friday night, December 10, setting the stage for the busy 2021 Christmas Wonderland Festival.
Under the glittering Christmas lights and backdrop, festival attendees enjoyed horse-drawn carriage rides, homemade hot chocolate and spicy wassail, Christmas candy, and other delicious home-cooked food.
The sweet scent of kettle corn and funnel cakes hung in the air. Those who came with a hearty appetite were easily satisfied with dinner options ranging from rich house soups to smoked barbecue dinners.
A dozen children, dressed in their best Christmas clothes, took part in this year’s Mr. and Miss Merry Christmas pageant, wowing the crowd with songs and other cute performances.
Parade watchers admired decorated floats, flashing emergency response vehicles, decorated new and old cars and trucks, marching bands and holiday-clad horsemen as they rounded the square.
Mr. and Mrs. Claus even came down from the North Pole, visiting children and giving gifts.
âThe parade and the entire Christmas Wonders event was wonderful in every way! It’s kind of like being in the middle of an illustrated postcard to see all the lights and the festivities, âsaid Janet Taber, Historium volunteer, who helped organize a soup and chili supper during the festival. . âThe weather was great which was a huge bonus. We are so grateful that the Ozark County Historium is open and functioning for the benefit of Ozark County and to create our own history, even as we work to preserve and share the records of the past. “
A variety of vendors
The west and north sides of the square featured more than two dozen stalls and vendors selling crafts, homemade goodies, home decor, Christmas gift ideas, raffle tickets and more.
While it is not known how many people attended, one vendor said volunteers handed out candy canes to more than 200 people, a surprising crowd given the harsh weather forecast which at one point predicted 70 for one hundred chance of rain during the festival’s prime hours and during the parade.
The rain resisted during the festival and the weather was hot; however, a strong line of storms swept through the Gainesville area around 9pm, just after most vendors packed and left.
Allisa West, who runs the vendors and stalls, said she thinks the festival went well.
âThe food vendors were all happy with their participation. A few of them sold out before the parade, âWest said. âI’ve heard mixed reviews from craft vendors, but this seems to be pretty typical [of any event]â¦ I had a few cancellations but most of them braved the wind at the start of the festival. Fortunately, it seemed to calm down the rest of the night.
West said there were 28 vendors set up in the festival square. Bouquet Palace and the Ozark County Historium, both located on the west side of the square, also remained open. United County Missouri Ozarks Realty, on the north side of the plaza, opened its office to use the bathrooms and had games and drinks available, West said.
âIt was a great participation. Time held up, and it was just a perfect night.
Mr and Miss Merry Christmas contest
There were twelve children aged 4 to 5 who entered the Mr. and Miss Merry Christmas pageant, which was held at the gazebo this year.
Gainesville resident April Luna led the duties of the contest host this year, replacing regular contest host Kerrie Zubrod, who stepped down from the job when her grandson Zander Zubrod decided he wanted to participate. in the competition.
Each competitor took their turn, climbing onto a raised platform and giving the audience their best smile. Luna asked each attendee a variety of questions, including their ages, if they had any pets or siblings, if they went to school, and what they liked most about Christmas. She then came up with a unique holiday-themed question at the end of each child’s performance, asking things like, “What color is Santa’s belt? And “Who’s got a red nose?” To end the contest, each child was asked if he or she had anything special to share – a joke, song, or something else. Several contestants participated with a song.
The judges deliberated taking into account the answers each child offered.
Each participant received a prize, a large teddy bear.
Zander Zubrod, son of Alyssa Wood and Andrew and Victoria Zubrod, and Amanda Thomas, daughter of Markus Thomas and Ashley Thomas, were crowned Mr. and Miss Merry Christmas 2021. After the contest, the pair of kiddos ascended to the back of a convertible driven by Paul Bobby in the Jingle Bell fashion show.
The other Mr. and Miss Merry Christmas participating in this year’s contest were: Mossy and Emilie VanderVeen, both 5 years old, children of William and LeVienna VanderVeen; Aims Collins, 4, son of Shane and Candice Collins; Cameron Overcast, 4, son of David and Christy Overcast; Kinsley Cooper, 5, daughter of Rick and Haley Cooper; Finley Roberts, 4, daughter of Johnathan and Ralena Roberts; Emerson Burks, 4, daughter of Dylan and Lydia Burks; Emily Graham, 4, daughter of Joseph and Courtney Graham; Natalye Barnes, 4 years old, daughter of Mason and Lorraine Barnes; and Kyra Walker, 4, daughter of Katie Walker and Cody Collins.
Parade of bells
The festivities continued at 7 p.m., as festival-goers made their way to the edges of the square, making way for the 2021 Jingle Bell Parade.
A long line of floats, lighted vehicles, horsemen, marching bands and other entrances began their parade down Second Street next to the Town & Country supermarket. The route required participants to turn Main Street for a short distance, then turn right into the square and make a full circle, exiting Third Street.
Parade organizer Paula Rose said the Dora School Marching Band and a few other attendees chose not to come this year due to forecast storms, but most parade attendees showed up enthusiastically.
Jingle Bell show host Renee Hambelton announced each parade entry as she walked from her bar to the gazebo.
This year’s parade featured 10 floats, 16 local business vehicles, several fire trucks and emergency vehicles, around 20 horse riders, five classic cars and a variety of convertibles carrying special guests, including Citizen of the Year. of Ozark County, Kathryn Atkinson, Parade Marshals Rob Collins. and Angie Collins, Mr. and Miss Merry Christmas Zander Zubrod and Amanda “Deedle” Thomas, Hootin an Hollarin, Deputy Queen Haddie Parker and Princess Jessee Latham, State Representative Travis Smith, Mayor Gail Reich and others.
The Gainesville High School Marching Band and the Kiltie Drum and Bugle Corps of Springfield Central High School also participated. The Kilties, a Ozark County favorite at the annual Hootin an Hollarin festival, made two runs around the plaza with different performances. This was the group’s first year participating in the Jingle Bell Parade. Gainesville High School cheerleaders danced to “All I Want for Christmas”.
See page 4 for a complete list of parade participants.
After the parade, Mr and Mrs Claus visited the children and posed for photos taken by parents and family members in the gazebo.