Christmas on the Square

Christmas on the Square will be held this Saturday beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Christmas in Perryville will have a bit of a different look this year.

In the past, the city’s annual Christmas on the Square event, hosted by the Perryville Chamber of Commerce, kicked off with a holiday parade of lights at dusk and ended with an appearance by Santa Claus.

This year, the celebration will be sponsored by the Perryville Downtown Revitalization Committee, and according to head elf in charge Mary Jo Bammel of Villainous Grounds, participants can expect more than a few changes as the annual party transitions from an evening affair to an all-day event.

“It’s going to be a very large format change,” Bammel said. “The biggest thing of all that I’ve been getting questions on is there will not be a parade this year. It’s going to be a lot to organize a parade and the event. This year, I want to focus on the event. With the format change, I wasn’t sure exactly how to incorporate it because the parade is usually in the evening. This year, our grand finale to the whole event will be turning on the lights at dark, so working in a parade during the day just didn’t seem as much fun.”

The event, which will coincide with Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30, will be held on the downtown square from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and will offer everything from brunch to a biergarten and craft tents to carolers, all with an overall Bavarian/German theme, and culminating in the lighting of the square at 5:30 p.m.

So far, Bammel’s plans have drawn praise, particularly from the Chamber.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Perryville Chamber director Jackie Wengert. “We’ve got new people ready to get involved with fresh, new ideas. “We’re very excited. I think they’re going to do a great job.”

Bammel plans to start the day off on the right foot.

“We will be having a brunch in the morning, served on the square,” Bammel said. “We’re putting up a large tent and we’ll have brunch at both 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to try and make sure we get as many people through as we can, and at 2 p.m., the tent will be turned into a biergarten. There will be live music played in there for that crowd.”

In spirit of the event, beer service — and those partaking — will be restricted to the beer tent. Elsewhere on the square, those who normally participate in the parade with their decorated tractors will get the chance to display their machines.

“They can have their tractors out for everybody to enjoy throughout the day,” Bammel said. “It is a very special tradition that the tractors are here, and if they still want to light them up, they can turn those on [at the same time we light up the square] so everybody can be part of the grand finale.” 

Early plans for the event include requesting the use of Jackson and Ste. Marie Streets from the city, presenting Bammel with a bit of a challenge, especially when it comes to various vendors.

“Hopefully, we’ll have anywhere from 15 to 20 tents, if we can fit them in,” Bammel said. “We are not taking up the entire square. We’re only going to be shutting down St. Marie and Jackson Streets this year, so what we can fit in on these two sides is going to dictate what we can have. I think I have 17 craft vendor tents and four tents for different food items. We’ll be doing cocoa and cider, hopefully kettle corn, and I’m looking for a roasted nut vendor.”

In keeping with the Christmas spirit, Bammel is also planning on having live music throughout the day from various community groups and choirs. For the younger crowd, a special craft tent is planned, where children — and their parents — can make Christmas cards and ornaments for themselves or loved ones.

“And then I want them to make one for a soldier overseas so that we can send a large box of ornaments or cards to our military who are taking care of us,” Bammel said. 

In addition, visitors will also be able to participate in the annual cookie walk at businesses around the square.

“The cookie walk is one of the big things to get people here, give them something to do and get them in the businesses,” Bammel said. “I am planning on getting off-duty officers and sheriff’s deputies to come act as crossing guards so that everybody can get around the square safely because we are not shutting those two streets down. If we have large crowds of people, I just want to make sure that they’re safe.”

Of course, no Christmas celebration would be complete without an appearance by the man himself.

“I am going to be putting a larger tent on the courthouse lawn [for Santa Claus],” Bammel said. “This year, we are going to have different groups of Girl Scouts and people helping out acting as our elves and I want to do the traditional visit with Santa, but I want the kids to register. They’ll get a ticket for a free cocoa, they’ll get a little ticket for some kind of gift from Santa and I can have their name written down so when they get up there, Santa can do the authentic, ‘Hey, little Jimmy! How are you today? What do you want for Christmas?’ “

For more information about volunteering or about Christmas on the Square, contact Bammel at Villainous Grounds by calling 573-605-1333, by email at villainousgrounds@gmail.com, or stop by the shop at 26 North Jackson St. in Perryville.

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