It was a beautiful evening with a slight chill in the air as families milled about downtown Grinnell checking out businesses, sipping on hot cocoa, listing to Christmas music and celebrating the season during the annual Jingle Bell Holiday on Friday, Nov. 17.
On the southeast corner of fourth and Broad, Dennis Dostal of Tama and his team of draft horses came to stop with a carriage full of riders sharing smiles and taking in all the sights and sounds of the evening.
“We love coming here to Grinnell,” said Vickie Dostal, wife of Dennis, a fixture at the annual Grinnell Jingle Bell Holiday event for years. “Teddy and Tommy (the Dostal team of draft horses) love giving rides and seeing the smiling children who stop to pet them.”
“I love seeing the kids and smiles on their faces,” said Dennis. “It makes everyone happy to get into the Christmas spirit.”
Jingle Bell Holiday kicked off at 5:15 p.m. on the main stage at Grinnell’s Central Park.
Grinnell Mayor Dan Agnew was joined by Grinnell Chamber of Commerce Director Rachael Kinnick as they welcomed those who came to celebrate the holiday, while thanking those who made Jingle Bell Holiday possible. They then turned their attention to a couple dance routines by Michelle’s Dance Academy.
This was followed by Mayor Agnew sending out a quick thanks to Kevin and Jennifer McAlexander and the host of volunteers for their efforts in decorating the park as he led the large gathering in counting down from 10 and turning on the holiday lights.
Dancers with Stepping Out Dance Academy closed out the opening ceremony with a dance routine on the Central Park stage before everyone spread out across town.
Across the street from Central Park at the Grinnell United Church of Christ, singers in the Grinnell Children’s Choir performed a Christmas concert followed by family activities and treats in the Friendship Hall. The choir is under the direction of Erin Bustin.
And down the street at the Grinnell State Bank, Santa Claus made a stop with a jolly ho ho ho as youngsters and their families stood in a long line to meet Old St. Nick and have a photo taken by local photographer, Cory Hall. Hall has been taking photos of kids with Santa for 30 plus years.
And just around the corner, Santa’s counterpart, the Grinch, made a visit to Jensen Optometrists for pictures with area youth and families.
“It’s an enjoyable nice evening,” said Karen Ashby of Grinnell, who was spending the evening with friends. “There are a lot of families out enjoying the festivities and all the beautiful storefronts.”
At Brown Shoe Fit, the Grasshoppers performed an array of traditional bluegrass tunes along with some classic country songs. The band is comprised of a group of local vocalists and instrumentalist who play a variety of instruments including the dobro, banjo, bass guitar, guitar and fiddle.
“We saw so many people come through and enjoyed watching some of them sing along to the songs,” said Kelly Kaup, the lead singer for the local group. “They added in some fun traditional Christmas tunes for the holidays.”
“I just love this event,” said Sarah Dahlby-Albright. “It’s everyone out enjoying the beautiful evening.”
Next door at the Pioneer Bookshop, Monique Shore, author of “No One is Better Than You,” an illustrated children’s book based on the life of Edith Renfrow Smith, talked about and shared printouts from the book, which is slated for release around Christmas.
“It’s been a wonderful evening,” said Shore. “We’ve had lot of conversations about the book. I appreciate the bookstore giving me the space.”
PALS (Poweshiek Animal League Shelter) had adoptable kittens at Hair of the Dog and puppy dogs at Mahaska Communication Group.
At St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus held a soup supper with Christmas Caroling on the front steps.
Other business open for the evening included Re/Max Partners Realty, Rummaging Around, Saints Rest Coffee House, Solera, Loralei’s Giftshoppe, Lily Lou Company, Hope Family Counseling and Naturopathic Healing, Grinnell Area Arts Council, Grin City Bakery, Beckman Gallery & Gifts, Anna Kayte’s Boutique, Witte’s Home Decorating & Antiques, Stepping Stones Christian Bookstore, Suzi’s Boutique, Stew Makerspace, the Iowa Kitchen, Poweshiek Trading Post and more.
Inside Hotel Grinnell, Slane McCue, 14, welcomed shoppers to her homemade melt-and-pour glycerin soap booth at the Winter Farmer’s Market held in connection with Grinnell’s Jingle Bell Holiday.
The annual Winter Farmer’s Market featured more than 30 vendors selling a variety of baked goods, produce, ceramics, jewelry, woodworking, fiber art, mittens, tie dye products, jams, jellies, honey and various other gift items.
“It was really busy,” said Slane, who has been making the soap for about three years. “It was fun and it went well.”
In addition to the Winter Farmer’s Market vendors, there were 35 participating businesses who took part in Jingle Bell Holiday.
“I think this is one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen at Jingle Bell Holiday,” said Rachel Bly, a member of the Grinnell City Council. “There are folks of all ages. It’s been great to see kids and adults out and about.”
“What a wonderful evening to kick off the holiday season,” said Kinnick. “The weather was beautiful, which helped result in a fantastic turnout of community members and visitors alike to downtown. People of all ages were out to enjoy themselves and support our businesses – it truly was a magical evening.”