Snow was forecasted for Saturday on the Hernando Court Square and organizers for the Dickens of a Christmas delivered snow all day.
“Ice skating” and tree lighting officially rang in the annual holiday event Friday afternoon. Children wobbled around on an artificial ice rink set up on Panola Street while parents looked on and gasped at many potential slips. The rink was available Friday and Saturday.
The city of Hernando Christmas Tree was lit at 6 p.m. on the corner of U.S. Highway 51 and Commerce Street. The event was hosted by the Hernando Main Street Chamber of Commerce. Onlookers enjoyed the decorated evergreen and socialized with characters dressed in Victorian-era garb. A showing of Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” was held on the courthouse lawn following the tree lighting.
On Saturday, the court square was filled with the sights and sounds of Christmas. Holiday vendors set up around Losher Street and the courthouse lawn.
A snow machine was set up on the balcony above the east side entrance of the DeSoto County Courthouse along with Christmas decorations for attendees to take family photos.
Gia Matheny, community resource director for the city of Hernando, was dressed in a red plaid Victorian dress, black jacket and a short top hat at Saturday’s event.
“It is great and everything is running smoothly. We have had a wonderful turnout,” Matheny said. “We’ve been asking folks where they’re from as we bump into them. We’ve had a lot of people that had driven a few hours just to come to the event, southern Mississippi mainly and of course others from over the state line.”
Matheny said her dress and garb were fun to wear and added to the atmosphere of the festivities.
“You do not get dressed the same as you do with your normal attire,” Matheny said. “It didn’t take very long to get dressed. I will say this, if it was a warm day it would be very hot attire, but today it worked out perfectly. The weather today has been so cool.”
Matheny said all registered vendors were in attendance at the event.
“Everybody is here and everybody seems to be having a good time. A lot of the historic craftsmen like Mr. Jack, with Hockaday Brooms, and Greg, with Harkins Rocking Chairs, seem to be doing wonderfully,” Matheny added. “It’s really fun to see how they demonstrate their work. Im’ on my way now to Center Street and we’re going to check the blacksmith. We have a canon and a gentleman with the artillery crew here. Also we have David Shackelford displaying vintage agriculture equipment.”
Jack Hockaday, craftsman for Hockaday Brooms out of Selmer, Tennessee, showcased his family’s legacy of broom making.
“Today, I’m doing the old fashioned 1850s style of broom making. My family have been making brooms for the last 105 years,” Hockaday said. “I’m the fourth generation and the last. I’m here trying to perpetuate the old folk art of broom making.”
Hockaday said he enjoyed the festive ambience of small town festivals like Dickens of a Christmas.
“I’ve had a great time today. I’ve sold some brooms, I’ve had great conversations, I enjoy downtown festivals like this. I’ve done so many around courthouse squares like this, it’s just something about the town coming together,” Hockaday said. “You can’t beat that, that’s a really personal thing. I’m proud that y’all invited me down to put up with me and let me demonstrate my trade. I’m hoping Gia calls me back and says ‘Jack, you want to come back down here?’”
Hockaday was set up on Losher Street and U.S.Highway 51. He displayed several models and styles of brooms from cake brooms, spider web brooms and rainbow brooms.
“There’s a lot of folklore behind brooms,” Hockaday said. “For instance, jumping the broom. When my granddad and great-granddad were making brooms, they would give them away at church. When somebody got married you gave them a new broom. For African-Americans, during the slave trade era, a white man wouldn’t marry and African-American. So (African-Americans) created their own tradition of jumping the broom which signifies jumping into the holy land of matrimony. If they jumped a broom, it was specified they jump very high. If their foot was to touch the broom when they jumped, that’s the one the Lord was going to call first when it’s their time.”
Other broom folklore Hockaday shared included how to display a broom and use it to ward off evil.
“If you move into an older home, you always want to take a new broom into an older home, because you sprinkle salt on the front porch, salt on the back porch, sweep it off with a new broom. That gets rid of any spirits from any other family that has lived there,” Hockaday said. “When you display your broom, however you walk into your kitchen, you want to hang it in the left hand corner to draw good fortune to your family.”
Hockaday said his popular items he was selling were his small whisk brooms, cake tester brooms and kitchen brooms. Hockaday even was selling his model of broom he submitted to filmmakers for the Harry Potter film series.
Kage Cliburn, 14, has been with Kudzu Playhouse since he was in the third grade and choreographed the performance of a scene from A Christmas Carol. Young Kudzu players reenacted the dance portion of Fezziwig’s Party.
“We started choreographing this four weeks ago," Cliburn said. "It was really fun and so good to see the audience's reactions to the dance. I was very surprised by the turnout. I loved watching how happy it made everybody.”
Cliburn said he and his company rehearsed everyday during school fall break and everyday last week for two hours a day.
“I’m very tired but it was well worth it,” Cliburn said.
Gary Liberty was a first time visitor to Dickens of a Christmas. He and his family recently moved from California to Hernando two months ago.
“I really like it, I love the homemade products,” Liberty said. “We love the small-town feel. A.C.’s (Restaurant) has been good to us too. It’s been nice. Hernando has grown on us very quickly in two weeks. It’s nice, it’s got a square, a lot slower pace and not as crowded as Southaven, Olive Branch and Germantown.”
Other events throughout the day included horse-drawn carriage tours of Hernando’s historical sites at the DeSoto County Museum, gingerbread house making workshop, musical performances throughout the day, a ballet performance from Ballet DeSoto, Victorian dancers, Hernando United Methodist Church Bell Choir and the Mississippi Youth Orchestra Quartet.