A casual conversation with a relative sparked the idea and Christmas in the Country (CITC) was born. It began December 5, 2004 as a trunk sale, in Cave Spring, GA, at the home of Fred & Susan Childers. There were only a handful of vendors and shoppers were by invitation only…a handwritten invitation at that! The event was hosted by Susan Childers & Mary Alcorn with a buffet of smoked meats & side dishes provided to all who attended. The following year, the vendor list grew as local artists and craftsmen asked to join. The invitation list grew as well, with vendors adding family, friends, and co-workers to the list.
By 2008 there were 40 vendors. The house was filled to capacity and vendor tents started popping up in the backyard & along the driveway; A mini arts & crafts festival formed. The invitation list was now in the hundreds. Invitations were printed on Christmas stationary with Susan addressing each by hand and “snail mailing” them all. Fred & Susan continued to provide smoked meats, side dishes, coffee and cold drinks to everyone.
In 2012, on the 9th year of CITC, there were 75+ vendors located inside & out of the home. The invitation list was in the thousands; postcard invitations were ordered and mailed out. Shoppers parked on both sides of the driveway from the house all the way to the road (approx. ¼ mile distance). There were accounts of near accidents and Fred had to use his tractor to pull several vehicles out after they got stuck. It was clear that the event had outgrown the space.
On the 10th anniversary, after almost a decade of steady growth, and with 120 vendors, CITC moved to Rolater Park and the name changed slightly to Small Town Christmas in the Country (STCITC). Printed invitations continued to be mailed out and social media was used to promote the event. STCITC was now open to the public. Coffee and hot apple cider continued to be provided free of charge for all. Vendors were charged a small fee for the first time; to cover costs such as renting the park, utilities, invitations, and postage. Some vendors served samples of food, however the buffet that was offered in the Childers home had been phased out. In their booth, Susan & Amanda provided samples of pintos & chow-chow, and small biscuits to go with jams & jellies.
Last year (2017) brought the largest crowd STCITC has ever seen. We had 150 vendors, including more than a dozen food & drink vendors. Although there is no way to keep track of the number of shoppers (with no gate or admission fee), it was certainly in the thousands. For the first time, coffee & cider was not provided by Susan; instead vendors sold these products.
Just as it was on the very first year, STCITC continues to be a labor of love. Susan begins to work on the specifics of following year during the current event, documenting requests or concerns from vendors and shoppers, planning ways to improve community involvement or satisfaction, and generally just making the event better. She sees STCITC as a way to support the entire community: local artists and small businesses have an opportunity to sell their wares and advertise to the public while the crowd that comes to shop also supports the businesses of downtown Cave Spring. All of this occurs through a fun, relaxed environment, where unique items and Christmas gifts can be found at reasonable prices.
We anticipate STCITC will continue to grow each year and would love for you to join us! Save the dates!: December 1 & 2, 2018 and December 7 & 8, 2019. For additional information & vendor application, go to: www.smalltownchristmasinthecountry.com or find us on Facebook under the title Christmas in the Country 2018.
We hope to see you there! Susan Childers & Amanda Smith