PORT GAMBLE — Carols and the smells of fresh fruitcake will fill the air of Port Gamble starting this weekend as the town prepares for its annual holiday celebration — this year for three weekends instead of one. With the stockings hung by the chimney with care, the candy canes with Santa for little hands and plenty of other surprises waiting for visitors of all ages, the Port Gamble Country Christmas will kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The previously one weekend event will now stretch over the first three Saturdays in December, creating more opportunities for visitors and residents alike to check out the historical mill town for gift ideas and holiday activities, said Port Gamble event coordinator Julie McAfee.
“The last two years, attendance was down a little bit, and we weren’t sure why,” she said. “We decided to shake it up a little… We have 30 vendors that are really good vendors with unique crafts and food. We have all kinds of fun and three different choices for residents to come visit. As you can see, with all the scheduled events, we try to have something for everyone.”
Dec. 1 will bring a craft fair, hay rides, pictures with Santa Claus, carolers, and a gingerbread house building station in the conference room below the Port Gamble General Store. Dec. 8 boasts the ever popular fruitcake contest, of which local novelist Debbie Macomber will be one of the judges, a tree lighting at 5 p.m., as well as the majority of the activities from the first Saturday. Dec. 15 will also have those features, along with a Christmas cookie station and a performance of “Mary’s Little Boy Child” at 1 p.m.
“Before, I used to do Country Christmas myself,” said Port Gamble General Store Owner Ethel Molina, who was a food vendor at the crafts fair. “I’m already preparing all of the lights. I think it’s going to be wonderful, especially for the businesses in town. With the three days, there’s more opportunity to come over here.”
She has become known for creating special menu items for different occasions, and this Christmas will be no different, as Molina said she is working on a holiday tamale for the store’s restaurant. That, along with the decorations and historic atmosphere really makes the season special, she said.
The Dauntless Book Store owner Lyn Playle is also decorating and preparing her shop for the three Saturdays, especially the child’s building near the store, which will again house a special guest. Santa has been known to visit the bookstore during the Country Christmas celebration, and Playle said he will again be making an appearance for photos and Christmas wishes from children.
“I think it’s going to be better than when it was just one weekend,” she said. “There’s so much to see each weekend, it will give them more chances in case they miss one weekend.”