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Annual Marketplace event to benefit health care facility
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Mike Scott, of Mills Floral Company of Duluth, sets up a booth inside the Gainesville Civic Center Thursday afternoon in preparation for the 19th annual Marketplace.

The holiday season is officially here.

Thursday night kicked off the 19th annual Marketplace, the shopping event hosted by the Medical Center Auxiliary of Northeast Georgia Health System.

The event, which opened with a preview party at Gainesville Civic Center, and continues through Saturday, will benefit New Horizons North, the health system’s long-term care facility.

“I’m thrilled with the turnout. We have about 500 people tonight,” Meg Nivens, one of the chairwomen for the event, said Thursday as the festivity started. “Our ticket sales were phenomenal, and the auctions this year really go above and beyond. Last year was a record, and we hope we match it or do better.”

Last year, the event drew almost 3,500 shoppers and generated around $145,000 for New Horizons. The facility is in need of a makeover, and all proceeds will help update the living areas, such as the living rooms, dining room and outdoor courtyard garden areas.

“It’s fabulous and marks the beginning of the holidays for me,” said Nancy Colston, executive director of the Medical Center Foundation. “People come every single year, and it’s fantastic because you know you’re supporting a wonderful cause while you shop.”

A few new merchants were added to this year’s list of exhibitors, including White Interiors, a home accessories and furniture store in Dawsonville, and Viola’s Market, a merchant from St. Simon’s Island that will offer live topiaries, gifts and jewelry.

“It’s fun. It’s a lot of work and takes all day to set up, but it’s great,” said Sheila McClelland of Five Sisters in Marietta, which sold Christmas ornaments and decorations Thursday. “We’ve been doing shows for six years, and this is my second year here, It’s always well put together with a good crowd and for a good cause, too.”

With 73 merchants from seven states, the marketplace boasts art, jewelry, purses, ornaments and home decorations. The auctions included 15 getaway packages, an outdoor brick fireplace and an oil painting by Alice Paris.

“I donated a class of self-defense. I want to train as many women as I can in the next 20 years,” said Jeanne Nash of Rape,

Aggression and Defense Systems, who was enjoying Thursday’s preview night atmosphere with friends. “This really falls in line with my goals, and I look forward to seeing who will be in the class.”

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