These children, from left, Aaron Bailey, Logan Thomsen and Landon Thomsen, played one of the "reindeer games" Saturday at Twin City Park in Marble Hill during the Christmas in the Foothills Festival.
Hundreds of children and adults attended the second Christmas in the Foothills Festival, marking the beginning of Marble Hill's Christmas season, said festival organizer Jack Watt.
Among the activities were craft and food vendors, eight games, Christmas ornament making for children, an appearance by Santa Claus and dog sled races. The festival ended with a recreation of the Nativity story, a parade of 15 floats from throughout Bollinger County and the lighting of the community Christmas tree at Magnolia Park.
"I had always wanted to do something like this for my community," said Watt, who along with his wife, Carla, came up with the idea 10 years ago. "I wanted something that would celebrate Christmas and give people an opportunity to kick off the Christmas season. A couple of years ago I told my wife, 'let's do it.'"
Last year's event drew an estimated 400 people. This year, the crowd was estimated to be between 200 and 300. Watt said each year new elements will be added, such as this year's chestnut roasting and ornaments crafted by children that will hang on a tree at nearby Magnolia Park.
"We want this to gradually build this festival up each year," Watt said. "If it does go away, we'll come up with something else but we can at least say it served its purpose."
Proceeds raised from the event will go toward building a $7,000 community stage at Magnolia Park. Other events this year coordinated by the Christmas in the Foothills organization -- which is made up of community members -- included an ice block race, waffle breakfast, family picnic and fall festival.
Since 2007, the organization has raised $2,500 to build the stage.
"We'll have to have more events like this," Carla Watt said. "With the economy the way it is, less people will be able to travel like they used to."
Howard Bellew of Burfordville, Mo., was a participant in the dog sled races. While a team from Crader Distributers in Marble Hill placed first, he said the half-mile race reflected what the festival was all about -- a chance to make memories.
"The race took me back to when I used to sled as a kid," Bellew said. "Seeing my kids cheer on their dad was a moment that made the exhausting experience worth it."
Diana Norwood of Mountain Home, Ark., returned to the festival this year. The former Marble Hill resident said the event allowed her to rekindle relationships with friends and family.
"The best part of this is that I get to see people I normally don't get to see the rest of the year," Norwood said. "It's fun seeing those people and how much Marble Hill has changed."
Unlike Norwood, Christy Bollinger of Cape Girardeau did not attend the festival in 2007. Bollinger said she was impressed by the way the community came together to hold the event.
"This is what community spirit is all about," said Bollinger, with her beagle, Sam, by her side. "A festival like this gets me in the mood for the holiday season."
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