The Makers Club of Magnolia provided a space for constructing gingerbread houses.
The Makers Club of Magnolia provided a space for constructing gingerbread houses.

Hundreds crowded into Magnolia Village for the annual Winterfest celebration on Saturday night, which included more than a dozen businesses offering various doses of holiday cheer.

The Magnolia Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Winterfest festivities included photos with Santa, making gingerbread houses and the annual tree lighting.

Many spectators came out specifically for the Magnolia Garden Center’s part of the festivities, which offered a half hour of caroling led by the Magnolia Girl Scouts, the opening act before the lighting of the community Christmas tree during a rousing rendition of “Oh Christmas Tree.”

Magnolia Garden Center owner Chuck Flaherty said the tree-lighting ceremony has been held at the garden center for decades.

“We just basically have a village Christmas tree here at the garden center, and we decorate it and light it and have it be here through the Christmas season,” he said. “The tree lighting is when we first actually turn it on and leave it on through the duration of the Christmas season.”

Flaherty said he is honored to be part of the community’s holiday festivities and humbled each year by how many people come out to participate.

“It’s a village,” he said. “It’s a point of focus for the people that live here. Even people from out of the area come to see it. The people that live here bring friends, so it is kind of a tradition and an annual thing that we have been doing for a long time.”

He added this cheery time of year is best when he gets to celebrate the season with his friends, family and community.

The garden center’s Christmas trees start at $30 and top out around $300.

There are about 500 trees on the lot, and that’s the way the center keeps the inventory for a couple weeks, as Christmas approaches and stock begins to dwindle.

Another main pull of Magnolia’s Winterfest was photos with Santa, which were offered at Magnolia Windermere. Folks lined up the length of the entire block on McGraw, waiting for their turn with Father Christmas.

While they don’t live in Magnolia, Liz and Peter Wakeman brought their daughter to get her picture taken because the outing sounded like a fun time. They got all bundled up, with hot drinks in hand, and mingled with the rest of the community.

“I think it’s cool,” Liz Wakeman said. “I grew up here for a couple of years, and now I live in Green Lake, and we don’t really have a downtown core area of businesses, and I always think it’s cool that Magnolia does and there are events down here. It feels like more of a community.”

The blocks on McGraw between 34th and 32nd avenues were closed.

People congregated in the streets around a fire in a barrel, and also participated in the various offerings of neighboring businesses.

There was an ugly sweater contest at Magnolia Village Pub, face painting at Studio K and adult drinks offered at plenty of locations.

Sarah Winter said she and her kids, Andrew, 3, and Catherine, 5, make Winterfest an annual holiday outing.

“We come to Winterfest every year, we have lived here for four or five years,” Winter said. “We love the Village, and we love the community and love seeing people we know and supporting local businesses. Just the sense of community we have here.”

Dozens of other families headed to the Makers Club to construct gingerbread houses – sans the ginger – out of graham crackers, frosting and candy.

Makers Club of Magnolia program coordinator Kaasha Samuelson said the organization’s participation was geared around providing an “activity for the community that is meaningful and connects children and adults.”

She said the activity was fitting of the Makers Club, because the participants were all making things together.

“This is essentially the spirit of the school,” Samuelson said. “We have kids here making things. They get to explore instead of having their early learning filled with didactic approach and solely focused on pre-academics.”

She said the center focuses on play-based learning, which is really important to foster social and emotional growth patterns.

At the gingerbread-making station, Chandra Eidt said she and her two children were enjoying the activity and looking forward to lots of hot chocolate and treats from local vendors.

I think it brings people in the community together,” Eidt said about Winterfest. “It’s just a positive energy sort of thing. It’s good.”