Christmas comes early at Tacoma holiday fest
If you’re anything like me, you know that the day after Thanksgiving is far too late to begin ushering in the Christmas season.
The appropriate time is the third week of October, which is when the Tacoma Holiday Food and Gift Festival takes place at the Tacoma Dome.
The five-day festival boasts live entertainment, cooking displays, impressive decorations, a resident Santa and over 600 merchant booths. This year’s show was the 30th anniversary and spanned the days between Oct. 17 and 21.
The atmosphere of the Holiday Food and Gift Festival was cheery, with Christmas music playing softly overhead, lights strung everywhere, gifts and crafts in rich red and gold and even a 45-foot Christmas tree made of lights hanging from the ceiling.
This year’s live performers included the youth choirs of Northwest Associated Arts, the Aria Dance Company, Dancemakers Northwest, pianist Juan Perez, the Dance Theatre Northwest and the Eatonville Dance Center. Performances, which featured holiday-themed repertoire, began at 10 a.m. each day and ran until the afternoon.
In addition to performances by musicians and dancers, the festival hosted a number of Northwest chefs to give demonstrations each day beginning at noon. Dishes included specialty salads, truffles, loose leaf teas, pizza, soup and holiday fare.
A city of booths offered everything one could need for the holiday season: artisan pottery, woodcarvings, jewelry, purses and luggage, bejeweled clothing, clay figures, kitchen items, children’s clothes, knit hats and scarves, candles, soaps and lotions, games, toys, beef jerky, local honey, specialty chocolate and candy, baked goods, cheeses, teas and every variety of Christmas tree ornaments imaginable.
Although many products targeted holiday-minded shoppers, other booths, like the entire aisle dedicated to home improvement, were more general, almost giving the festival the feel of a state fair exhibition.
Malia Barber, a Tacoma native, worked at a booth called The Style U Want selling curling and straightening irons. She thought the feel of the festival, with its numerous non-holiday-related booths, could do with a bit of brightening.
“I think they should require each booth to do something a little Christmassy,” she said as she demonstrated a curling iron on my hair. Barber recommended more lights and louder Christmas music.
Walking into the home improvement aisle, it was admittedly a bit jarring to see salesmen pitching bathroom tiles, roof gutters and “As Seen On TV” products alongside handmade holiday items.
One merchant whose handmade wooden toys looked like they were straight from Santa’s workshop was David Tyler of Tyler Toys, based in Buckley, Wash. Tyler hand-carves each of the 85 models of exquisitely formed children’s toys and decorative mantelpieces.
His work has been featured in Wood Magazine and other national publications. His toys are perfect for Christmas gifts and, although it takes place in October, Tyler’s business is not put off by the early date of the festival.
“I do just as well in October, if not better, than I would in December. It’s a head start on Christmas time,” Tyler said. This is his fifth year at the Tacoma Holiday Food and Gift Festival.
Doug Huntley, a salesman from Boise, Idaho, agreed that the festival comes at the perfect time to begin the holiday season.
He sells Magic Snow, a product that when mixed with water expands and creates realistic-looking polymer snow.
For Huntley, switching to selling Magic Snow from the other products he sells the rest of the year marks the beginning of the Christmas season.
“This is where it all starts,” he said, grinning. Huntley has been working at the festival for six years, and he says it is one of the best holiday shows in the country.
For more information on the Tacoma Holiday Food and Gift Festival please visit their website at: http://holidaygiftshows.com/
To be apprised of other upcoming food and gift festivals in Tacoma, visit: http://www.showcaseevents.org/Tacoma_event.htm