Christmas in the Park attracts crowds

FOLLANSBEE – From home-crafted, seasonal knick-knacks to food galore, everyone attending the Christmas in the Park festival at Follansbee City Park Saturday seemed to be having a good time despite the occasional rain shower.

The park was packed with hundreds of festival-goers, admiring and buying everything from homemade fudge to hand-crafted gun stocks from the 106 vendors at the event, which continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Despite the occasional shower, trees in the park made for a natural umbrella, and the weather didn’t seem to deter the crowds at all, according to Betty Ann Shaffer of Follansbee, who hosted a booth selling seasonal items.

“This is a nice event,” she said. “We have around 106 vendors this year. All the proceeds raised go toward charity.”

Shaffer said the festival has grown greatly the past few years, as people are attracted to the park grounds and variety of items for sale.

“I’ve been here for the past seven years,” said Shaffer, adding the festival was advertised on local billboards. “I (create) gifts to go, wreaths and arrangements. Business has been good. I do quite a few craft shows, but this is the best one.”

Vendor Debbie Vukelic said she was having a good time selling items for the Hooverson Heights Church of Christ.

“We have peanut brittle, handmade scarves, Christmas candles, popcorn balls and homemade ornaments,” she said, adding she and Virginia Harlan were selling the items for the church’s womens’ ministry group.

“This is a fundraiser for a missionary trip to Honduras,” said Vukelic. “(Business) has been pretty good so far. I was surprised how many people are here, considering the weather.”

Candy Cooper, another vendor selling homemade, flavored fudge, said she often hears about how her first name is ironic considering the unusual goodies she creates.

“A lot of these are made from my own recipes,” she said, adding some of the flavors included pumpkin, pecan pie, chocolate turtle, orange cranberry, German fudge and butter pecan. “I’ve been doing this festival for years. I go all over Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. This is my favorite (festival).”

Cooper said the park having paved pathways and a relatively flat landscape was an advantage, making it easier for those with disabilities to get around.

Phil and Traci Bridenbaugh hosted a booth selling handmade, rustic furniture and crafts. Both said the creations for sale were a family affair.

“Myself and my son-in-law, Joe Fernandez, do the bigger (pieces), while my wife and daughter, Ashley Streblo, do the smaller crafts and all the decorating,” said Phil. “Despite the weather, it’s been a pretty good day. It’s a nice, comfortable atmosphere.”

“The guys do all the building, and we do all the finishing,” said Traci.

There also was plenty to eat for those enjoying the event, including vendors selling hoagies, Italian sausage, hot dogs, hamburgers and beverages. William Isaac of Steubenville said he was impressed with the atmosphere and dedication of those organizing the two-day event.

“My first impression is I’m really impressed with the participation of the vendors getting involved in the community,” said Isaac, adding the park was an ideal place for the event. “The layout here is so spacious, and you can really move around. Follansbee always seems to do a really great job with festivals in this park. People are talking and mingling. It’s a good atmosphere to be in.”

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