Christmas pics with Santa offered
By Barbie Porter
The city of Vergas is preparing for the unofficial kick-off to the Christmas season on Saturday, Nov. 27 with the return of Small Town Christmas.
The event offers plenty of fun, including a visit from Santa, a gingerbread house contest, festival of trees, live nativity, fainting goats, fire pits, live music and much more. The fun starts at 2:30 p.m. and goes until 5:30 p.m.
The fun event coincides with small business Saturday, which is a day where shoppers forgo big box stores and visit locally-owned businesses to make purchases. Vergas has plenty of mom and pop shops that offer items spanning from unique apparel to decor, toys to trinkets and there is always the popular gift certificate option as well.
The Vergas Community Club is offering Holiday Bucks again this year. If one pays $80 they receive $100 worth of gift certificates that can be used at any Vergas area business (but is not valid for gas, tobacco or gambling). The community club pays the difference out of their funds. There is a Holiday Bucks limit of $200 per family. And, there will only be a total of $5,000 in Holiday Bucks offered. Last year, the amount sold out in hours, so arrive early to get the hot deal. The Holiday Buck sale begins at 2:30 p.m. in front of the Vergas City Hall.
Santa will also arrive in town between 2:30 and 3 p.m. This year he will be visiting with kids on a sleigh on Main Street. All kids who chat with Santa will be registered to win in a toy sponsored by SJE Rhombus. All kids will get a treat, trinket and an opportunity to take a picture with Santa. In fact, the entire family can join and cross off the to-do item of taking a holiday family photo.
Community club member Helena Johnson said there will also be a Giving Tree. For those unfamiliar, she explained on the tree’s ornamental bulbs are wish list items from a local child who may otherwise have a giftless Christmas. While the holiday is not about the gift, it is about the act of giving and uplifting one another through kindness. Johnson said the children who will receive the kindness via the Giving Tree attend the Frazee-Vergas School District. She applauded the school for providing names of those in need and United Community Bank in Frazee for offering advice on how to organize a giving tree.
Once the gift is purchased it can be dropped off at Natalie’s Serendipity (which is located on Main Street). When Christmas approaches, the gifts will be delivered.
Between the shopping and friendly banter with familiar faces and potential new friends, visitors may want to take in the festive atmosphere the city has created.
The Vergas Lions helped decorate Peterson Park near the Vergas Event Center and Long Lake Park at the city beach.
Vergas Community Club member Natalie Fischer said the club put a lot of effort into bringing holiday cheer to those parks and adding to the fun of the event. The community club will also be doing some decorating around town, as well as downtown businesses and residents in and around town.
Hanson acknowledged Vergas Mayor Julie Bruhn and residents Terrie Hanson and Peggy Oglesby for creating beautiful holiday arrangements in the city planters.
The downtown businesses will be decorating a tree and placing it on Main Street. Village visitors can vote on their favorite tree (with cash). The tree that collects the most financial support wins and the business owner will be able to donate half of the funds raised to a charity or organization of their choice. The other half will go to the community club for hosting events, such as Small Town Christmas or Looney Days.
The city’s official tree will also be lit the evening of the festival at 5 p.m. Ditterich’s Family Farm donated four large trees for the downtown event.
Overall, the combined goal of the businesses and clubs was to create a city that gives a feel that people are walking into a Hallmark greeting card moment that was captured for a few hours on a November afternoon. Increasing the atmosphere and Christmas feeling will be area residents. For Vergas residents that decorate for Christmas, they will automatically be entered into a light contest hosted by the community club. The Vergas Lions are leading the decoration contest in rural Vergas. Vergas Lions member Deb Jacoby said the Lions will drive around in a radius of 5 miles from the city, and judge the houses that are decorated. The top three vote-getters will receive $50. Both the community club and Lions will do the judging of holiday decorations by the community on Wednesday, Dec. 15.
Event returns after
two year hiatus
It has been two years since Small Town Christmas was held. Sherri Hanson, one of the many event organizers, recalled last year the restrictions of gatherings due to COVID-19 called off the event and a year before that the weather dropped into sub-zero temperatures that were not safe, more than once.
When community-orientated events are canceled it impacts the city, businesses and the community club. The club sees a reduced income from fundraisers, which impacts later events the group wants to host. The businesses may see less foot traffic through the door, as fun events bring people to town and often visits includes shopping. The city also loses the opportunity to continue strengthening its growing recognition of being a premier tourist town with unique attractions.
“We also enjoy providing those activities and events for the community and our visitors,” Hanson said. “It gives us an opportunity to gather and that is important.”