Carrying the momentum of a successful inaugural offering, the Christmas in the City collection has unveiled its second ornament, showcasing a colorful design featuring College Street School.
The series of Christmas ornaments displaying scenes from Clinton’s past and present was introduced last year to a tremendous response — so positive in fact that an additional order was made of the 2015 design depicting a past glimpse of the Sampson County Courthouse, which are now also available.
“We sold 140 of the 2015 ornaments last year and have 140 more of the 2015 to sell this year,” said Clinton-Sampson Planning director Mary Rose, who serves as Clinton Main Street manager. She noted that approximately 50 of those had already been pre-purchased. “In addition, we have 280 of the 2016 ornaments to sell this year, given the success of last year’s ornament sales.”
Last year, Rose and others shared their hope that the 2015 memento would be the “first of hopefully many in the years to come,” stretching into a series of collectible keepsakes that captured the best of Sampson’s seat. That is exactly what has happened.
“We have had a positive response to the ornament, with many people desiring to purchase one of each to begin a collection,” Rose remarked. “They have been referred to by those purchasing as great Christmas gifts, especially for people from Clinton who now live elsewhere.”
Three photos are selected each year featuring potential images to be placed on the following year’s ornament. Those photos are placed in downtown businesses and included with purchased ornaments for residents to give feedback. This year, College Street School received the highest number of votes. The former Clinton Post Office and the “Milling Around” art piece were floated as possible options for 2016’s design.
The College Street School ornaments have been through the same painstaking design process as last year’s courthouse collectible.
Made in China and distributed from a California company, each ornament is placed in a velvet box with a small card that gives a brief history of the depicted scene as well as an explanation of the two-day effort that goes into making each of the ornaments, from the hand-blown glass to the detailed application of each of the colors.
“No two pieces are identical,” Clinton Main Street Design Committee member Helen Kearns has said of the process. “I think that’s what sets it apart.”
The cards are hand-tied to the ornaments by Kearns and the brief history is written by local historian Joel Rose.
“College Street School had its beginning in 1826 as the Clinton Academy in a frame schoolhouse which by 1858 became the Clinton Female Institute, where ladies came from great distances to attend,” the card for 2016’s ornament reads. “In 1900 the Clinton Female Institute became part of the public school system. In 1911 the original frame structure was replaced by the present brick two-story structure of classical design with a center bay portico and Ionic columns. In 1922 it became Clinton Elementary School, and in 1954, L.C. Kerr Elementary School was built and Clinton Elementary was renamed College Street Elementary School.”
Even in December, Kearns said College Street School would likely be the subject of 2016’s design, which is ultimately submitted by a subcommittee of the Clinton Main Street’s Design and Promotion committees.
For years, Kearns had been trying to find the best way to offer a commemorative ornament that shared some of Clinton’s rich history, with the hopes it would become a series if the ornaments proved popular. A collector of the annual White House ornaments for more than two decades, Kearns said last year the product, if done with care, would catch on quickly.
It was not until local business owner Jimmy Matthews attended a Christmas Gift Show in Atlanta this in early 2015 that the idea came into clearer view. After seeing one particular hand-painted ornament, he brought a sample back to Kearns. She loved it.
“I had tried for the last couple years to get a memento for Christmas in the City,” Kearns said upon the release of 2015’s first-ever city Christmas ornament.
Not only a keepsake, all proceeds from sales of the $20 ornaments are used for beautification projects in downtown Clinton. Following the announcement of the inaugural ornament, they were gone in quick order, prompting the re-order.
Mary Rose said re-ordering would be a one-time occurrence for 2015’s ornament, as it was tough to gauge just how popular the ornament would be. “We wanted people to have the entire collection so we will re-order this year but never again,” she said in December. Barring something unforeseen, with an order of 280 ready for 2016, that is still the plan, Rose said Tuesday.
The ornaments will be available in several downtown Clinton businesses within the next week, but have not been distributed yet. For those who purchase an ornament, a survey is included requesting their assistance in selecting the design for 2017’s edition.
“We are gathering photos now for consideration,” Rose noted.
For more information or to place an order, call 910-299-4904.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.