Ready or not, the Christmas season descends on Carlisle in full force on the first weekend of December with the annual “Santa Comes to Town” weekend sponsored by the Downtown Carlisle Association, along with the Market of Curiosities at the Carlisle Expo Center and Carlisle Barracks Christkindlesmarkt at U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.
The Christkindlesmarkt runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 1. This holiday crafts bazaar is open to the public with free admission and parking.
Santa Comes to Town
Organizers of the downtown events admit they have come up with an ambitious slate of events.
“The one thing I think we all want to do is make Christmas a special time for the town. We’re almost trying to contain it. We want to do so many things,” said Jim Griffith, DCA parade co-chair.
The festivities begin with the F&M Trust Carlisle Christmas Parade at 7 p.m. Nov. 30. Using the theme “Light Up the Night,” the parade features more than 40 floats, marching bands, youth groups, dancers, horses, fire trucks and more. It will be held rain or shine.
Applications for the parade will be accepted up to Nov. 24, said Glenn White, executive director of the DCA.
White stressed that the parade’s route will differ from previous years in that it will form at the parking lot on the old Masland/IAC property south of Carlisle Fire and Rescue Services.
The parade used to line up on East North Street, but it was considered to be unsafe due to darkness, units pulling in early before the street closed and the inability for residents to get to their homes since some roads were closed.
“While it looks farther, it is about the same distance in marching as the North Street location,” said Trey Braun, parade co-chair and DCA board member.
The parade will march down Hanover Street and end at South Street.
At South Street, Santa’s carriage will turn around and return to the Square where he will be given the “Santa Key” to the borough and light the trees in Veteran’s Courtyard using special “Christmas spirit dust.”
After the tree lighting, Santa will lead the first community carol before turning the microphone over to Matt Robinson and singers from Resonate Church to lead a carol sing-along to the accompaniment of the U.S. Army Field Band’s Brass Chamber Quartet.
Lyrics to the songs will be included in a songbook and coloring book provided by the Charles Bruce Foundation and sponsored by the DCA.
Pat LaMarche of the Charles Bruce Foundation said she had worked with the parade committee to have Robinson, a board member and opera singer, lead the singing. During their talks, LaMarche found out that children don’t have anything to take along after a visit to Santa. She enlisted local artists Pat Craig, Cassie Lier, Aron Rook, Mary Parks, Catherine Stone and Chad Bruce to illustrate the six carols in the book.
“So when the younguns of all ages see Santa this year, they’ll get the Carlisle Caroling and Coloring Book along with a bundle of crayons for immediate fun,” she said.
Children will be able to have their photos taken with Santa following the parade and again on Saturday.
While at the Santa House, visitors can take a peek into its newly redesigned interior featuring framed historic photos of Christmas in Carlisle, along with homey touches provided by Leesa Braun and Bedford Antiques.
For the first time in many years, Santa will return to the Square for additional appearances from 2-4 p.m. on Dec. 8 and Dec. 15.
“So many people wanted the parade back, and they wanted Santa on the Square more often,” Griffith said.
Create-A-Palooza partnered with DCA, the Charles Bruce Foundation and the Greater Carlisle Heart & Soul Project to make the additional appearances happen. RED 102.3 FM will be at the Square on those days as well to play Christmas music.
During the parade and Christmas tree lighting, Toys for Tots collection boxes will be available beside the Old Courthouse steps and at Denim Coffee, both on Hanover Street near the town square. For snacks prior to the parade, visitors can visit the S’Mores Bar at the Whiskey Rebellion Patio at the Comfort Suites where a variety of traditional s’mores will be served, alongside some with different ingredients.
Hot cider and hot chocolate will be served at the Alpine Haus on the Square. This year’s edition of the Carlisle Heritage Christmas Ornament will also be available there.
Benchfield Farms will offer carriage rides immediately after the parade at the corner of West Church and Hanover streets, just south of the Old Courthouse. They will continue to offer the rides throughout December on Fridays from 6-9 p.m. and Saturdays from 5-9 p.m. Rides are available Dec. 23-24 by reservation only.
Cost is $5 per adult and $3 for children ages 6–12. Children 5 and younger ride for free with an adult. Reservations can be made by calling Benchfield Farms at 717-776-6492.
Create-A-Palooza, located at 11 E. High St., will host a Christmas ornament painting event after the parade until 10:30 p.m. The cost to paint an ornament is $6.
The evening concludes with a free Christmas movie, “Jingle All the Way,” at the Carlisle Theatre. Door prizes related to the theme of the movie will be given away at the end of the show.
The downtown celebration continues Saturday with Donuts with Santa at 9 a.m. at Bosler Memorial Library.
The Cumberland County Historical Society will host a holiday family program that starts at the G.B. Stuart History Workshop, 29 W. High St., and Storytelling with Mrs. Claus will be held at 1 p.m. at Whistlestop Bookshop, 129 W. High St.
The day ends with the annual showing of “White Christmas” at Carlisle Theatre at 7 p.m.
Market of Curiosities
“It’s almost walking through a museum that’s kooky and fun, and you never know what you’re going to see,” said Sarah Taby, organizer of the Market of Curiosities.
Now in its fifth year, the market will be held Dec. 1 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Carlisle Expo Center. Admission to the show is $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and free for children younger than 12. The first 100 people to come through the doors will receive a tote bag designed by local artist Aron Rook.
The entertainment at the show features Tyler Fyre, who performs at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
“He’s probably one of the most well-known sword swallowing, fire-breathing sideshow performers out there,” Taby said.
After some letters of explanation, Fyre has been given the green light by Carlisle Events to use fire as part of his performance. Fyre may also have both his wife and his young boys, who do straight jacket escapes, with him to perform, Taby said.
Circus Stella will return this year with a new addition to its acrobatic stunt show. They found out after they adopted a puppy, Heidi, that the puppy was deaf. All the same, she’s being trained and will perform if she’s having a good day, Taby said.
Circus Stella performs at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
The Curious Kid’s Open Mic Session starts at 11:30 a.m., featuring music and a few jokes. Punk Rock Santa will be at the show throughout the day.
Seven alcohol vendors, including Big Hill Ciderworks, Burd’s Nest Brewing, Castlerigg Wine Shop, Market Cross Pub and Brewery, Seve-N-Dots, Wolf Brewing Company and Zeroday Brewing, will be serving drinks, and several vendors will have food available.
Now in its fifth year, the show continues to grow not only among visitors to the show but also among those who want to be vendors. Applications for the juried show this year came from places like Brooklyn and New Jersey, Taby said.
New vendors this year include Dark Days Welding, which creates a variety of objects from motorcycle parts, and Cigar Box Guitars, creator of guitars, banjos and ukuleles. First timer Mistress Rae’s Decadent Designs features dolls that look something like what might be found among the Borg in an old episode of “Star Trek.”
Each vendor is also expected to bring items in a range of prices. That’s part of the design of the event, which Taby said is designed so that someone with $20 in their pocket can get in the door, grab a beer, pick up a gift and enjoy the show.
Another holiday shopping event—Christkindlesmarkt Holiday Crafts Bazaar organized by Carlisle Barracks Family and MWR—will also take place on Dec. 1. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center, 950 Soldiers Drive, Carlisle. Admission and parking is free, and the event will feature entertainment, music, artisan vendors and food.