By Kristin Bednarski
Bethel Down Home Christmas attracted residents from across Clermont County to celebrate the start of the holiday season in Bethel Dec. 1.
The event featured shopping, activities for children, crafts, visits from Santa, parades, and other holiday festivities throughout the village of Bethel.
Lou Ann Oberschlake, Down Home Christmas Committee chairperson, said the 10th annual event was one of the best they have ever had.
“Everything was better than the years before,” Oberschlake said.
Oberschlake said she thinks the good weather and the 10th anniversary had something to do with the good turnout, as well as the fact that it was well-organized.
“Committee members have it down pat,” Oberschlake said. “It is so well-run and smooth.”
This year for the first time, the village held the Santa Doggy Parade, and dozens of people attended with their dogs in tow, many dressed in festive holiday apparel.
“We just found out about it, but it was so fun,” Debbie Hathcock, of Bethel, said about the dog parade.
Hathcock said she enjoys Down Home Christmas and thinks it was a great event to bring to the community.
“It’s a good thing for this town,” Hathcock said about the event.
Businesses throughout Bethel opened their doors and had shopping specials all day Saturday.
Gloria Canter, a shop owner in the village, said they had people waiting for them to open at 8 a.m and would be open until the parade later that evening.
“We’ve been very busy,” Canter said.
Rachel Crabtree, who used to live in Union Township, said this is the first year she has lived in Bethel and attended the event.
Crabtree browsed shops in the village and said there was a lot to see and do at the event.
“It’s really nice,” Crabtree said. “It’s definitely down home.”
A craft show was set up at Assembly of God Church, where local artists were able to sell their goods.
Barbara Wilson, a vendor at the craft show from Brown County, said the turnout at the show was great.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Wilson said about the event. “I’ll be here every year.”
Lee Ann Barker, of Bethel, browsed through the gifts at the craft show. She said she enjoys coming to Down Home Christmas each year.
“It’s just kind of a tradition we do every year,” Barker said. “The kids like to do all the crafts. It’s a good kick off to December and the Christmas season.”
The Bethel branch of the Clermont County Library and St. Mary’s Church had a variety of activities for children during the event.
Children were able to learn how to build their own gingerbread house and complete other crafts at the library. St. Mary’s Church hosted Kids Fest, where children were able to make gifts and other crafts, play games, and visit Santa.
Elizabeth Shofstall helped her grandchildren make gingerbread houses at the library and said they attend many of the events throughout the day.
“It’s becoming a tradition for us,” Shofstall said about Down Home Christmas.”It seems like it grows every year.”
Residents had the opportunity to win several baskets packed full of gifts and other raffle items during the event.
Down Home Christmas also provided residents an opportunity to give back by donating canned goods or money to the Bethel American Legion Post 406. The post uses the money to feed those in need.
The event ended with the Down Home Christmas Parade on Plane Street, followed by carols and hot chocolate at Burke Park.
“We had the largest parade we’ve had in 10 years,” Oberschlake said.
Oberschlake said she thinks Down Home Christmas continues to be a success because residents enjoy coming out to support small businesses and have fun close to home.
“I think people are realizing you don’t have to drive an hour and a half,” Oberschlake said. “I think it’s the small town atmosphere and personable people. It’s really working out well.”