Gingerbread wonderland at Artists' Exchange

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Six hundred handmade gingerbread houses and a special visit from Santa led to a jam-packed Artists Exchange on Saturday, Dec. 2.

The two attractions went hand-in-hand, as Santa became the judge for best gingerbread house before he left.

From early in the morning, outside of the Rolfe Square location was a table with Christmas wreaths for sale and warm drinks for the patrons. Artists Exchange employees and volunteers braved the cold for parts of the day, but they were aided by the Smithfield boys soccer team, who volunteered their time to sell the wreaths.

Inside the warmer – and newly renovated – two-floor exchange was a bustling atmosphere of families getting into the holiday season spirit.

Elaine McKenna-Yeaw, director of the Artists’ Exchange, said that she expected nearly 2,000 people to come through on Saturday during the 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. time slot for the event.

The main attraction for the event is up for debate. Santa certainly had quite the pull while he was in between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., with children following him around yelling “Santa, Santa,” and almost every family looking to get a picture with him.

On the other hand, the 600 gingerbread houses for decorating became the source of sweetness as families flowed in and out Saturday.

The houses were made by Artists Exchange directors and volunteers a few weeks prior and sold at the door Saturday for $15 a-piece. All the candy and gooey frosting that a kid could ask for was provided for families as they made a gingerbread house to take home for the holiday season.

The proceeds all go back to help fund the artists hub and are especially important this year as they get closer to the $85,000 goal to match a grant provided to pay for massive renovations in the building, as a previous Herald article detailed. The renovations were finished just recently in November, so the extra space provided more room for the more than one thousand people who strolled in and out Saturday.

McKenna-Yeaw said that this event, which has been growing in attendance every year since it began, was the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season at the Artists Exchange. Their Theatre 82 will also be putting on A Christmas Carol throughout the month and a holiday gala and silent auction will also contribute to their December festivities. 

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