story and photos by Brittany Ransom
The Junior League of Fort Smith kicked off its 2012 Holiday Market with a day of general shopping and a special "Girls Night" event on Friday (Nov. 16). In its 19th year, this year's market featured more than 60 vendors for shoppers to browse, as well as a weekend of activities.
Doors opened for general shopping at the Fort Smith Convention Center on Friday at 9 a.m. Merchants filled the exhibit hall, selling everything from clothing and make-up to food, wine and home decor. Vendors included a mix of local and regional stores, area wineries and several popular product lines including AdvoCare, Arbonne, Scentsy and Thirty-one Gifts.
Ladies were treated to hors d'oeuvres, dessert and drinks at Friday evening's Girls' Night. Bidding on the silent began at 6 p.m. and included the chance to take home many gift certificates and gift baskets. Numerous event merchants also donated prizes, such as items of clothing, picture frames and holiday decorations for the auction. For $5, guests could also purchase raffle tickets for the chance to win a sterling silver and gold ring with black onyx and diamonds.
Apparel and accessories from several of the merchants were also featured in the Girls' Night fashion show, which got underway at 7:30 pm. Adult and children's apparel, as well as some of the latest pet fashions could be seen on the event's runway.
Local boutique Suite One returned to Holiday Market again this year, after making its first appearance in 2011.
"We are excited to be a part of Holiday Market again this year," said Tasha Buchanan, co-owner of Suite One. "There has been a steady flow of shoppers throughout the day and we know that it will only get busier throughout the rest of the weekend."
Holiday Market serves as the Junior League of Fort Smith's largest fundraiser. Proceeds from the event support JLFS initiatives including Kids in the Kitchen, Project GEM (Girl's Education and Mentoring), Literacy Committee, Done in a Day and the Children's Emergency Shelter.
“Junior League of Fort Smith is an organization committed to developing the potential of women, improving our community and promoting volunteerism," said Amanda Tolbert, JLFS President.
More than 400 members strong, JLFS works throughout the year helping to raise money for projects that enhance the lives of women and children and to raise awareness for other non-profits in the community.
The group's recent focus is on helping foster care kids transition successfully into adulthood or "aging out" of foster care.
"We are in the process of developing our plan relating to Aging Out which will include teaching foster care kids between the ages of 14-21 life skills and eventually providing transitional youth housing," said Tolbert. "We have already been asked by the State of Arkansas to be a member of a statewide task force to set new interactive life skills curriculum.”
Holiday Market activities will continue throughout the weekend. In addition to general shopping, Saturday's festivities will include a special guest for shoppers and their children. Kids will be able to have "Snacks with Santa" and to have their photo taken with him. Guests can attend either the morning session from 10 am to noon or the afternoon event from 1 to 3 p.m.
The sessions will also include a sing-along, bouncy houses, face painting and a special performance by the Southside High School Dixie Belles. Tickets for "Snacks with Santa" are $15 per child and include one photo and two accompanying adults with general admission.
For $2, shoppers can also purchase the chance to win a stainless steel Rolex watch, donated by Newton's Jewelers, valued at nearly $5,00. The winner's name will be drawn on Sunday afternoon.
General shopping will continue on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. General shopping admission is $5.