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Festive atmosphere permeates Marketplace Preview Party
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Safe Kids Gainesville/Hall County coalition coordinator Kim Martin waits to talk with guests at the Marketplace Preview Party at the Gainesville Civic Center. The 22nd annual Marketplace weekend sale benefits the local Safe Kids, the goal of which is to track childhood injury rates and prevent future injuries. - photo by NAT GURLEY

22nd annual Marketplace

When: 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. today and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

Where: Gainesville Civic Center, 830 Green St. NE, Gainesville

Cost: $5 and children 12 and younger free

Contact: 770-219-1830

The mouth-watering scents, holiday cheer and festive decor inside the Gainesville Civic Center make it hard to believe Christmas is still more than a month away.

Janice Frost of Gainesville leaned over a table of glittering baubles Thursday night at the 22nd annual Marketplace Preview Party, looking for a few nice Christmas gifts for friends.

Within the first few minutes of walking through the door, she found a few for friends and for herself.

Frost has attended the shopping event for the last three years and said she thinks it’s only getting better, which is why she comes to the preview party.

“I just want to be one of the first to see it all,” Frost said, laughing.

Nearly 500 people attended the Preview Party. Through the support of sponsors such as Willis Investment Counsel, all of the proceeds raised through the 22nd and 23rd annual fundraising events presented by The Medical Center Auxiliary will go to benefit Safe Kids Gainesville/Hall County. The event aims to raise $275,000 through both events.

Ellen Toms, Preview Party tri-chairwoman, said she’s grateful to the community for its “overwhelming” support through attendance and donations from area businesses.

Carol Burrell, president and CEO of Northeast Georgia Health System, praised the volunteers who work all year to make the event a success.

“The preview party is such a special event to kick off the season and get all of your Christmas shopping,” Burrell said as she perused the merchants’ booths.

Many of the people in attendance carried full bags from booth to booth, and some checked off names from lists of gift recipients.

Lee Wagner of Gainesville took a short break from shopping beside his wife to grab an hors d’oeuvre. He said his wife was happily marking off names while they looked for presents for their family.

“We wanted to come somewhere to help the community and get some gifts,” Wagner said. “It’s a cool way to mix it up.”

The event features more than 70 merchants from eight states selling everything from clothing and home decorations to gourmet food and will continue 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. today and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets are $5, and children 12 and younger are admitted free.

Many of the booths feature local merchants and businesses.

Nichole Riley, owner of Riley Clay in Main Street Market in Gainesville, said she was excited to be selling her unique screen-print shirts at the event for the first time.

“I’ve always heard great things about it from people,” Riley said. “It’s been really great so far. I’ve seen a lot of my regular customers here tonight, too.”

For information or tickets, call 770-219-1830 or visit

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