The smell of warm apple cider and fresh baked cookies wafts through the streets of the small town. Men stand beneath street lights catching up on local news while their wives are drawn to the window displays of Main Street. An antique fire truck sounds the siren as children hang off the sides waving to their parents as carolers sound familiar good tidings. A community comes together to celebrate Christmas.
Sound like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting from the past? No, it’s just the how they celebrate the holidays in Exeter, with an old fashioned Christmas.
Exeter’s Downtown Merchants are hosting their 21st annual Christmas Open House. Lots of businesses stay open late for the holiday shopping season, but nobody does it quite like Exeter. DS Realty owner Darcy Staberg said this will be her first year as a business owner during the Christmas Open House and she has invited all of her clients to come and see the small town charm.
“It definitely brings new people into to town, something I am doing this year,” Staberg said.
Staberg said she has been to similar events in other cities, but none of them capture the quaintness of Exeter’s small shops, clean streets and holiday heritage.
“No one but Exeter seems to capture that old fashioned Christmas feel like Exeter,” Staberg said. “There is just something about the town, the shops, the people – it’s really unique.”
The Christmas Open House begins with festive fare on Thursday, Nov. 29. Businesses in downtown Exeter will stay open late from 5-9 p.m. serving hot cocoa, apple cider, snacks and sweets.
“Each business seems to have started a tradition of the kind of food they serve,” Staberg said. “I am hoping to do something completely unique and start my own tradition for this event.”
The annual Christmas Open House is old hat for Exeter Mercantile, one of the few businesses to participate in all of them. Mercantile staff members have been bringing up Christmas displays from the basement, getting shipments of Christmas retail items and setting up Christmas displays since Nov. 12 in anticipation of the Open House and the holiday shopping season. According to staff, the Mercantile does good business during the Thursday nights between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as the following Fridays and Saturdays. So much so they hire a few extra people during the holidays just for the gift department.
Tricia Kirksey Real Estate will again be sponsoring rides on an antique fire truck throughout the downtown area. And let’s not forget the most important business owner will be taking a break from his workshop to ask local boys and girls what they would like for Christmas. Santa Claus will be available for photographs at Mixter Park, located at Pine and E streets in the heart of downtown Exeter.
Exeter’s Christmas Open House continues every Thursday night from Dec. 6 until Dec. 20. For more information on the Open House, call the Exeter Chamber of Commerce at 559-592-2919 or visit www.exeterchamber.com.