Santa Claus (Michael Arrowood) greets people in the Visitor’s Center.
The Hendersonville Visitor Center at 201 S. Main hosts a free Holiday Open House 5-8 p.m. Friday, with snack treats and greetings from Santa Claus.
Those hours coincide with many downtown merchants serving refreshments, and staying open late. There are also roving carolers.
Another free event Friday, at 5-7 p.m., is Ye Olde Christmas Gathering at the People’s House. That is in the Henderson County Heritage Museum, in the Historic Courthouse. There will be Christmas storytelling and music, crafts for children, and free refreshments.
A bus trolley shuttles people to the WNC “Ag Center” near Fletcher, for the Shadrack Christmas Wonderland drive-through musical light display. This attraction, in its second year, is nightly all month. Admission is $20 and up.
But The Trolley Co. is charging less than that — $15 — per person, for round-trip and to see the display. The bus departs at 5:30 p.m. from the Visitor’s Center on Fridays and Saturdays this month, including this weekend. Group charters can be booked via 606-8606.
Also this Friday is the free Fletcher Community Tree Lighting in Fletcher Community Park, starting at 6 p.m. Local musicians will perform, Santa will visit children, and cookies and hot chocolate will warm spirits.
Hendersonville’s Christmas parade will be Saturday, Dec. 6, starting 10:30 a.m. at “Five Points.” Fletcher’s Christmas Parade is Saturday, Dec. 13, 10:30 a.m.
Both Friday and Saturday, Dec. 5-6 also features fundraising events. The Bullington Gardens Holiday Sale of crafts, wreaths and garland benefits educational programs there. Hours are 10-4.
Team ECCO Ocean Center & Aquarium downtown has Santa Under the Sea and free disk photos of your children visiting him. Hours are 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, and 1:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $3.
Fee-based special events include Christmas Open House at the Historic Johnson Farm this Saturday, Dec. 6, at $5 per adult and $3 per school-age child. Attractions include wagon rides, farm animals, tours; and sale of fiber crafts, greenery centerpieces and baked goods.
The Holiday Tour of Historic Inns and Cookie Caper, a self-guided tour of seven inns, costs $20 per person. This is a Hendersonville Historic Preservation Commission fundraiser.
Christmas at Connemara at the Carl Sandburg Home is Saturday, Dec. 27.
Shopping Season Begins
The holiday season was officially launched downtown Friday, Nov. 28, with the Holiday Tree Lighting of two large spruce trees on Historic Courthouse Square.
“Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving, is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the season. The focus of that one day has eased this decade, with store discounts starting before then and due to the rise of online purchasing, the National Retail Federation (NRF) CEO Matthew Shay noted in a press release.
In newer trends, some stores were open part of Thanksgiving Day, drawing lines for early-bird specials. Small Business Saturday sales promoted smaller merchants the day after Black Friday.
NRF’s survey indicates shoppers in retail stores across the country on average spent 6.4 percent less money ($380.95 versus $407.02) this past weekend (Thursday-Sunday) compared to a year ago. Further, the number of shoppers (“traffic”) dipped 5.2 percent.
But online spending also dropped, by 10.2 percent from $177.67 in 2013 to $159.55 last weekend. This past Monday is called Cyber Monday, for typically being the busiest online shopping day. NRF’s Thanksgiving Weekend Spending Survey was conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.
Ironically, Shay reasons that a perceived improved economy and spending power for some lessens their reliance on huge discounts right after Thanksgiving. Others, though, counter that many are earning less and paying a higher cost of living, are apt to spend less on gifts and gravitate more to bargains.
Hendersonville merchants aim to do better than the average town thanks to the quaint downtown and its spruced-up aesthetics (i.e. canopied trees and decorations) drawing tourists and area residents.
The buy-local theme is trumpeted by the local Chamber of Commerce, merchants collectively, Main Street/Downtown Economic Director Lew Holloway, and the city’s Downtown Promotions Subcommittee which meets Thursday.
Holloway hails the downtown district’s more than 100 businesses. “Local, independent merchants have unique gifts at great prices, with friendly and welcoming customer service” and within a broader area are “wonderful restaurants on Main Street and the Avenues.”
Check the tourism authority website for holiday special events this month including concerts and plays, at www.historichendersonville.org/december.htm.