HARRELLS — At Harrells Christian Academy, a group of kindergartners circled around a Christmas tree and awed at colorfully decorated gingerbread houses.
“It really brings out the spirit of Christmas when you get to see the kids coming through,” Mandy DuBose said Friday morning during Candy Cane Lane Holiday Market.
For HCA, the fourth annual event, hosted by the PTO was a major success. Proceeds from vendor fees will benefit the school’s annual fund, which improves the curriculum at the institution. As the vendor chair of the event, DuBose has been really busy. But that’s a good thing. A lot of vendors are returning and organizers are fortunate to have a lot of new ones as well. HCA also benefit from tickets sales, bake shop, spirit shop and the newly added food court. The traditional preview show which is usually held Friday morning, was also pushed up to Thursday night.
“We’re doing everything to vamp things up and make them better every year,” DuBose said.
With a total of 42 vendors, PTO resident Eva Thornton said it was another great year of success.
“We’re completely full and there’s a lot of diversity,” Thornton said. “It was all through word of mouth because of the quality show that we provide to our community.”
Candy Cane Lane occurs annuals the weekend before Thanksgiving, and is the start of the holiday season for many people in the Harrells area. It will continue Saturday. In addition to shopping, HCA children participate in the gingerbread house contest, with winners picked by judges outside of the school.
“I think our families look forward to kicking off their shopping with our holiday market,” Thornton said.
Jeana Grace Bowker, a HCA sophomore, was the first student entrepreneur at the event. She sold a variety of handmade stockings, tea towels and tree skirts from her business, Grace & Love Designs.
“It’s been a really fun experience,” Bowker said. “I learned a lot. I love the early Christmas spirit and I think Candy Cane Lane is a great opportunity to show off your business and show the talent God has given you.”
Many shopper admired the work put into the event. One of them was Mary Sue Thompson of Warsaw.
“I look forward to it so much every year,” Thompson said.
She purchased a birthday present for her granddaughter from Half United, a Wilmington business that provides meals to needy children with a portion of the sales. One product sold provides about seven meals for children.
“It’s been a great show and it’s been really cool from a vendor’s perspective just how happy people are to be here,” said Isaiah Surles of Half United. “The customers that come through are really excited to see each vendor and the different products.”
Surles said he’s looking forward to bringing Half United back next year. His colleague, Meredith Wheeler, had a good time too and enjoyed looking at the trendy products.
“I having a hard time not wanting to go shopping myself,” she said. There’s some really impressive vendors. I’m going to here next year to shop.”
Nearby, Avenue Gourmet Pecans sold a variety of flavored nuts after customers enjoyed samples on the table. The Clinton based business became a vendor at Candy Cane Lane a few years ago.
“We loved it,” said co-owner Dwayne Faircloth.
Faircloth said the business took a hiatus from the event due to Hurricane Matthew, which destroyed most of the pecan crops. But they returned for event this year. He also enjoyed the preview show on Thursday night.
“It’s always good to see wonderful people come out here,” Faircloth said. “We always had really good luck and enjoyed our time here.”
Candy Cane Lane attracted businesses from North Carolina and nearby states. This year the vendors from farthest away were Marla and Ruth Olsen from Alaska. They sold metal art, wind spinners and they’re planning to visit different shows as they head to Florida to enjoy the warm weather.
“It’s really nice, professional and classy,” Ruth said. “It’s a good atmosphere with the Christmas music. It was really neat to see the school kids come by.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.