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Christmas cheer was spread in high gear around Carlisle Saturday as record crowds swarmed two of the area’s popular holiday markets, Christkindlesmarkt and the Market of Curiosities.

This year, a total of around 2,500 shoppers were expected to peruse the Carlisle Barracks’ Christkindlesmarkt Holiday Crafts Bazaar at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, event coordinator George Rubio noted an hour before close. Proceeds from the annual event benefit Morale, Welfare and Recreation, or MWP, for Carlisle Barracks families.

“It gets bigger and bigger each year,” said Rubio, who is also the marketing director for MWP. “A crowd was waiting outside the door (Saturday) morning before we opened. That never happened before. Our vendors say this is one of the best shows they go to.”

Despite this, organizers purposely reduced the total number of vendor spaces at Christkindlesmarkt from 94 in 2017 to 88 this year.

“This was done more for space and the ease of getting around. We actually had to turn some vendors down this year,” Rubio noted.

Meanwhile, crowds at the fifth annual Market of Curiosities filled the Carlisle Expo Center to capacity on Saturday. Onsite parking for the Expo Center was filled beyond capacity on Saturday, spilling onto neighboring streets for several blocks in every direction.

This year’s event hosted 96 vendors offering a wide and unusual variety of fine arts and crafts, local microbrews, food and even a Punk Rock Santa selfie booth. Live entertainment included Circus Stella, a returning husband-and-wife stunt team with performing dogs, as well as The Lucky Daredevil Thrill Show, new this year with fire-eating sword swallower Tyler Fyre.

“We’ve grown every year,” noted David Bender, who organizes each year’s event with Sarah Taby. Bender and Taby are co-owners of Miss Ruth’s Time Bomb, a retro accessories shop on North Hanover Street in Carlisle.

Midway through Saturday’s event, Bender said it appeared they were “on track” to meet or even surpass last year’s total of 3,500 visitors to the Market of Curiosities.

“We could go even bigger, but we want to keep this in Carlisle. We live here and own a business here,” Bender said.

Amanda Benton, of Modulation Designs in Boiling Springs, also believes that Carlisle is an ideal location for unique holiday events like Christkindlesmarkt and the Market of Curiosities.

“There’s a lot of growth around Carlisle,” noted Benton, whose vendor booth of vintage Christmas decorations attracted a steady crowd at Saturday’s Market of Curiosities. “It’s a good mix of a college town and Carlisle events. There’s kind of a nostalgic, vintage vibe here in Carlisle. It’s a great town.”

Carlisle native Lisa Davis said she likes it the area so much, she moved back here after living in Vermont. She also wanted to be near her family again.

“(Friday) night, I saw the parade and the Christmas tree lighting. I could walk right from my home into the downtown to see it all,” she said.

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