Christmas market bumps parade date

Published 7:17 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Tourism moves popular event to four days before Christmas

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Smithfield Christmas Parade has again been moved from its customary date in December to make room for a street market.

This year, the second Saturday of the month will be devoted to the Smithfield Evening Mistletoe Marketplace. 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The Christmas Parade is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 21, along with the Kiwanis Breakfast with Santa. Those two events have traditionally been held the same day. 

Smithfield and Isle of Wight Tourism are also adding another Christmas market on Saturday, Nov. 30 in Carrollton. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

In addition to the changing schedule, Smithfield and Isle of Wight Tourism prefers not to organize the parade, beginning in 2020, and is looking for another organization to take it over. 

“We are actively pursuing finding a larger group to host the Smithfield Christmas Parade, as the event would be far better managed by more personnel and because the parade does not conform to our core mission of ringing cash registers for our stakeholders. If we are successful, we would still serve as a resource to teach the new group all the tricks and traps of this event. If we are unsuccessful, we will continue to run the parade,” said Tourism Director Judy Winslow. 

Before Tourism took over the Christmas parade in 2006, the event was organized by the Real Smithfield Jaycees, which hosted it from 1987 to 2004.

Tourism has added a St. Patrick’s Day parade in March and plans to continue organizing that event because it is simpler to manage, smaller and cheaper than the Christmas Parade, said Winslow. 

Tourism has also decided not to have Olden Days this year either, with the event reduced to a raft race sponsored by, and held at, Smithfield Station. 

Winslow said this is a “transition year” for Olden Days. 

Until 2006, a former downtown merchant group hosted Olden Days.

Competition for the three weekends in December prior to Christmas collided in 2015, when holiday markets, antique shows, house tours and other events were added to the long-standing Christmas parade, Breakfast with Santa and the Woman’s Club Christmas tree lighting — causing traffic and scheduling conflicts.  

The next year, the Christmas Parade was moved to Dec. 17 to make way for the Christmas Evening Market. That caused some consternation, so the parade was sent back to its traditional second Saturday in 2017, only to be cancelled that year due to the weather. 

Last year, the parade was again held on its traditional Saturday. 

The switch this year began with a conflict between the Christmas Evening Market, which calls for a street closure, and the Christmas in Smithfield Antique Show and Homes Tour, which had staked out the first weekend in December some years ago. 

The antique show and homes tour raises money for the 1750 Courthouse, and the group had already set the date — its traditional first Saturday of December — when they learned that the Christmas market wanted to be held the same day. 

To move the antique show and homes tour from its traditional day would have caused a substantial impact to the event, but it has been amicably resolved, said Brad Face, who is a Board member for Historic Smithfield which works with the 1750 Courthouse. 

After discussions with all interested parties, including town officials, Tourism came up with its final schedule many months ahead of time, which Winslow says will give people time to plan. 

The date changes were a way to support downtown merchants during the holiday season, according to a Tourism press release. 

The 2019 Smithfield holiday schedule

Saturday, Nov. 2 — Smithfield Holiday Open House Weekend (Historic District Merchants)

Sunday, Nov. 3 — Smithfield Holiday Open House Weekend (Historic District Merchants)

Saturday, Nov. 16 — Smithfield Farmers Market “Harvest Market”

Saturday, Nov. 23 — Smithfield Farmers Market “Thanksgiving Market”

Saturday, Nov. 30  — Carrollton “Christmas Market”

Friday, Dec. 6 — Woman’s Club Tree Lighting (at The Smithfield Times) 

Friday, Dec. 6         Light Up Main (Main St.)

Saturday, Dec. 7 — Christmas in Smithfield Antique Show & Homes Tour

Saturday, Dec. 7 — Farmers Market “Christmas Food & Craft Market”

Sunday, Dec. 8 — Christmas in Smithfield Antique Show & Homes Tour

Saturday, Dec. 14 — Smithfield Evening Mistletoe Marketplace

Saturday, Dec. 21 — Kiwanis Santa Breakfast

Saturday, Dec. 21 — Smithfield Christmas Parade

Saturday, Dec. 21 — Smithfield “Christmas Market” (Farmer’s Market)