Dawn and Greg Shelton are the kind of people who think it would be fun to put on a Christmas party for a few thousand strangers at their home.
And you’d have to agree they were spot-on if you happened by their picturesque Newark-area farm on Saturday – a historic site known as Poplar Hall – and encountered the couple’s warmth and hospitality, not to mention the smiles radiating from the diverse legions enjoying the Shelton’s first annual Christmas Market. In addition to vendors offering holiday gifts, beer and wine were sold all day, and guests were invited to sit back and relax at picnic tables scattered throughout the front lawn.
Their home is on the National Register of Historic Places, and 3,000 to 4,000 visitors filled the grounds, enjoying a chance to peek inside the Shelton’s home and stroll through the old barns, where exhibitors set up their wares. Guests were treated to an array of local merchants showcasing everything from olive oil to hand-crafted ornaments to, of course, trees, wreaths and other greenery.
The beautiful Andrews-Sisteresque sounds of Hotsy Totsy – a talented New Jersey-based trio – set a special tone for a day of merriment and shopping for market-goers, who enjoyed wine by Marydel’s Harvest Ridge Winery, and batches of “Chesapeake Chowder” and other tasty treats whipped up by Shelton’s friend, top restauranteur Bryan Sikora.
“We put our pride into restoring this historic property, and my mother and father were in to making things by hand. So I was raised around that environment,” said Greg Shelton. “So it was a natural progression for us to have a old-time Christmas event where everything had to be handmade.”
It was an enchanting occasion to kick off the holiday season, an impressive first-time feat for the organizers, which included Dawn’s stepfather Jim Dougherty, who worked with the Sheltons to set up vendor spaces, decorate the property and safely manage parking for hundreds of cars.
With a massive turnout – multiples of their expectations – the Shelton’s claim success. “We filled a void that isn’t around, which is why thousands of people showed up today. We love seeing the sparkle in everyone’s eyes when they see the local textile makers, jewelry craftsmen, and the old world charm of our Christmas Market,” said Greg Shelton.
The Sheltons are aiming to make this an annual tradition – they say they are locking in on the first weekend in December each year, so mark your calendars for Saturday Dec. 1, 2018!