Winterfest to transform Spencer into German Christmas marketplace

Published 12:09 am Thursday, November 25, 2021

SPENCER — A winter-themed, German marketplace is coming to downtown Spencer next week after the idea was planted earlier this year.

In May, Spencer Board of Aldermen member Sam Morgan and his wife, Sherry, contacted Kim Lentz and Sherry Mason Brown about hosting a Christmas event in the town. The idea was to provide a complement to the N.C. Transportation Museum’s annual Polar Express and give folks something to do on the other side of Salisbury Avenue. The market is based on other events held throughout the country. A notable inspiration is the market held in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Now, a committee has spent about 800 hours planning the event and, all told, about 4,700 volunteer hours will be sunk into the town’s first Winterfest.

“We have met every week since June,” Mason Brown said, adding there a dozen people on the planning team.

The event has turned into two weekends: Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 10-11. There will be more than a dozen events wrapped up in Winterfest along with the marketplace — where there will be plenty of good Christmas gifts on display in market huts and tents as well as food.

The weekend will kick off with an open house of Spencer’s new town hall in Park Plaza, a recognition of veterans and a tree lighting that evening.

“We wanted it to be something unique, and we looked at different German markets, different winter festivals,” Mason Brown said.

The weekends will be peppered with a 5k run, dancers, an ugly sweater contest, music and more. It will wrap up with carols and a reading of “The Night Before Christmas” on the evening of Dec. 11.

There will also be a bounce house, a beer garden, a food tent, an opportunity for photos with Santa and a “Christmas Lane” lined with trees honoring loved ones. There will also be lights in the food tent to memorialize loved ones at a lower cost.

Mason Brown said the event wanted quality vendors, but for its inaugural year the festival is not juried. There will be 10 vendor huts and 10 tents.

There will be more than merriment and vendors. A cookie sale on Dec. 3 will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, a charity tent will sell some art of local students and make donations to Faithful Friends.

North Rowan students built market huts as well, and live Christmas trees purchased from a North Carolina farm will be donated to local families through Communities in Schools Rowan after the event wraps up.

The donations for the event range from $10 to $20,000.

Sam Morgan said years ago the town was known for events that drew significant crowds, but it drifted away from event planning. He said he was looking for people willing to devote time and energy to making the Christmas event a reality, which led him to Lentz and Mason Brown among others on the committee. He credited Beth Nance for fielding the marketplace idea and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for providing the town with some information on its own festival.

Sam Morgan credited Mason Brown, Lentz and his wife for making the event a reality. Sam Morgan came up with the name, designed the logo and developed the campaign as the starting point for the event.

“The whole purpose was to bring a little bit more life into downtown Spencer, to help the downtown merchants and to bring some camaraderie and some pride back into the town,” he said.

If the event is a success, it will could become an annual affair. The event is still looking for volunteers as well.

For more information on the festival, visit spencerexperience.org.