Walk down Candy Cane Lane and it’s like you are peeking inside Santa’s Post Office and toy shop or maybe you prefer the candy store.
Go a few steps further and enter Christmas Village, where it will all feel like Dec. 24 is in full celebration mode.
This second annual event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at The Meadow Church, 1723 William Blount Drive, Maryville. The idea bloomed with Rhonda Reneau, who helps pastor the church with her husband Chris Reneau. They have been in ministry together for more than 30 years. Rhonda’s father, Ronald Reagan, was senior pastor here until his retirement in 2018.
“Christmas is her favorite time of year,” Chris said. Rhonda had no qualms with that assessment.
“I would do Christmas every day,” she confessed.
The activities building at the back of the church is where things will take on the spirit of the holiday season. After checking in, everyone is invited into the General Store, where it looks like Santa’s elves or some really crafty church members have made unique gifts to take home at great prices.
There are snowman families cut from wood, hand-crafted bird houses, porch decor, fluffy throws, decorative mailboxes to hold letters for Santa, and even peanut brittle and pickled okra. That’s merely scratching the surface of what will be displayed and ready for purchase when the doors open at 10 a.m.
“There are probably 50 seniors who have put the general store together,” Rhonda said. They have designed one-of-a-kind tree toppers, ornaments made from paint brushes and wreaths. Work started months ago.
“Everything will be at reasonable prices,” Rhonda said. “We are keeping it real.”
Chris said they have made a real effort to make Christmas Village bigger and better than last year. In addition to the General Store, children will have their own place to shop, called Elf Village.
There, kids will be able to find the right gifts for parents, grandparents and siblings. Everything will be priced at $5 or less.
“An elf will escort them to help them shop,” Rhonda explained. “They will leave with the gifts all wrapped.”
Chris said last year, one little girl found gifts for her parents, sibling and herself. Nothing wrong with that.
The Reneaus pointed out there will also be a food truck parked in front, a first for Christmas Village. It will be Wander Woman. Inside the church is a cafe where everyone sit down and enjoy their treats; Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there, too.
Down the hall and into the gymnasium is where close to 40 vendors will be set up. The individuals will have everything from jewelry, handmade ornaments, massages, cleaning supplies and more.
Chris and Rhonda’s daughter, Christian Primm, serves as the church’s worship pastor along with her husband, Jeff. She and the worship choir have recorded a Christmas CD featuring six songs, including “Mary, Did You Know?” The CD will make its debut today at Christmas Village and will be for sale for $10.
Other activities will include a silent auction and also face painting. Children of all ages can have their photos made with St. Nick.
Over in one corner there will be a team of wrappers who will wrap gifts purchased here or those attendees bring with them, for a small fee.
Last minute preparations were going on Friday. More lights, glitter, garland and presents are sure to be in place. Rhonda said it is a day for all ages to enjoy. Today, The Meadow is expecting 50 volunteers, helping make the day cheerful and bright.
Outside on a chilly Friday morning, Dempsey Mills was painting those villages that will dot Candy Cane Lane. He also designed the Christmas Village logo which is on bags and gift tags.
The church’s women’s ministry will be hand-pressing lemonade and also serving hot cider. Cotton candy and popcorn will be plentiful. The youth group has made artwork they will be selling. Rhonda said the annual event has grown since its inception last year.
“People are excited,” she said. “We are gaining traction. People and businesses have donated items. They have really jumped in to do their part.”
This is an annual fundraiser for the women’s ministry. Vendor fees are where most of the money comes from. Rhonda said she got the idea for Christmas Village because of her love of this time of year. She also wanted to give families a memorable experience and way to share in the spirit of the season without a huge expense.There is an incentive to come early; the first 50 people will get a swag bag, but all who come will get something.
“There are so many hands on deck,” Rhonda said. “We are excited about Christmas.”