Vendors, shops offer a little Christmas spirit
Crisp, cool weather didn’t stop people from enjoying First Friday in downtown Hazleton.
Christmas shoppers could sample goodies and drinks as they bought from vendors selling unique hand made gifts while walking along Broad Street, stopping by businesses and organizations participating in the third Wassailfest and Holiday Night Market. A total of 14 downtown businesses and organizations hosted more than 30 vendors selling goods.
It was the first time Paula Scatton and Holly Ciotola, both of Hazleton, and Judy Phillips of Drums attended the event. They made a girls night of the event, starting as soon as it opened at 4 p.m. Scatton placed a bid on an Eagles football wreath that was on display, hoping to take it home. The wreaths were on exhibit but were also part of a silent auction at the future site of City Arts Center, 31 W. Broad St., which is under renovation. Local designers, families, businesses and organizations created more than 30 wreaths for the display and auction.
“I hope no one bids higher than I did,” Scatton said.
Mike Corb of Hobbie joined his wife, Pat, at a vendor stand selling Christmas decorations. Among them were items they collected over the years and detailed wooden statues of Santa Claus that Mike hand carved meticulously. John Skuza of Hazleton was also selling wooden decorations he made, like reindeer and snowman and hand carved spoons — gifts he said would be perfect for anyone, including the hard-to-buy-for person.
He said for as nice as it was to have people admire his work, it was equally pleasurable making them.
“I just find it fun,” he said. Bernadine Carmadella could be found her near pearl wreath, which took her about eight hours to create but even longer to collect materials for. The wreath was made with pearl necklaces, bracelets and brooches. Once she collected the jewelry she began adding them to the wreath.
“You just keep piecing it together until it evolves,” she said as a group of her friends joined her side, planning to visit the many attractions of Wassailfest.
A local band, Wells River and the Beards, played at Pines Eatery & Spirits, 8 W. Broad St., where those who went wassailing could sample homemade apple crisp and spiced rum punch.
Folks could find out a little more about how Christmas is celebrated in the Caribbean, where Puerto Rican and Dominican traditions were shared.
“We’ve got empanadas, pina coladas, coquito,” Fermin Diaz said as he went down the long menu created by the Society of Hispanic Professionals of the Hazleton Area, Dominican House and Greater Hazleton Hispanic Business Association. They also served roasted pork, Caribbean-style turkey and traditional desserts.
Diaz said a lot of food in the Caribbean is fresh. Many dishes are marinated the day before they are cooked too. With more Catholics in the tropical areas, Christmas Eve and the Feast of the Three Kings in January is celebrated by families visiting each other from different towns to share in a meal, Eddy Ulerio said. The Three Kings are a bigger deal than Santa Claus for children there, too.
Yudelka Adames could be found at the Dominican House on Broad Street, where children could take a painting class and partake in some hot chocolate and snacks.
Inside the Shop 2, owner Carmine Parlatore offered cranberry punch to visitors looking at the antiques in her store. Parlatore said she decorated the shop in a vintage theme that she hoped made people think of Christmas at their grandparents’ homes.
She also had Sweets by Denise of Hazleton selling goodies and Daria Astorino of Batter, a gluten-free company in Harrisburg, selling baked goods. Astorino grew up in the Hazleton area and came home for First Friday.
Not far west of her Broad Street shop, the Sage Exchange offered homemade cinnamon bread pudding and hot buttered rum made by owner Tamara Hershberger.
Brian Riedel Photography was inside her shop selling Christmas photo sessions, along with a Christmas-themed photo booth folks could take advantage of. Handmade and creative gift ideas like crocheted fabrics were also for sale inside.
Events were held at other locations too.
“Very well done,” said Tammy Ondeck of the event while taking in the wreath display.
The Hazleton resident was hoping to get to all the many stops before the night was through.
Mike Corb of Hobbie was selling Christmas decorations he has collected over the years, as well as his hand carved Santas.
Handmade wreaths are on display, and available via silent auction, during First Friday festivities in Hazleton on Friday.
Food and desserts from the Caribbean were offered at 2 W. Broad St. by the Society of Hispanic Professionals of the Hazleton Area, Greater Hazleton Hispanic Business Association and Dominican House.