story and photos by Ruby Dean
A cloudy Sunday afternoon was a perfect day to come inside and enjoy hot chocolate, popcorn, hot apple cider and crafts at the Fort Smith Public Library’s 10th Annual Holiday Open House.
The event, held 1 to 5 p.m., was free to the public, but donations of a non-perishable food item was encouraged to help with the Holiday Food Drive. The library has participated in the food drive for the past twelve years and takes donations in November and December. Funding for the open house event is made possible by the Friends of the Library. Residents from Fort Smith and surrounding areas came to celebrate the holiday season and enjoy crafts and free entertainment for all.
Library Director Jennifer Goodson said, "This event is a good way to open up the library and share with the community. It is their (the library) gift for the holiday.”
Last year, the library saw 1,000 guests attend the event and they expected just as many this year. Guests were able to enjoy festive music, crafts, games, holiday displays, light refreshments, and other entertainment for children, as well as adults. Santa was also present for children to tell him their Christmas wish and have their picture made with him.
Bente Ericksen, originally from Denmark, brought her three children to the open house.
"I think this is a good way to get kids interested in reading. I bring my twins (5 years old) to the library during story time,” she said.
She loved today's event and was glad the library had the open house.
During most of the afternoon, there were no parking spaces in the parking lot and guests had to park in nearby business parking lots. At one point, refreshments were running low and a run to get more was required.
As each guest came into the library, they were given a Holiday Treasure Hunt map. They were encouraged to visit each library department and receive a mark on their treasure map. Clues to find each area were listed on the back of the Holiday Treasure Hunt, and library staff members were also available if anyone needed assistance. When the map was completed, it could be turned in at the Check Out Desk to get a holiday treat and a chance to win a prize.
Featured performers included origami Christmas trees and flowers, St. Boniface Rhythm Band, St. Boniface Spirit Squad, Riverblenders Barbershop Chorus, pianist Brad Kessler and vocalist Linda Dickson, Developmental Wings Hand Bell Choir, Rated PG Youth Choir. The performers appeared at 30-minute intervals in the lobby of the library.
Ongoing activities dispersed throughout the library for the children included animal balloons with Carolyn Baker, color scratch ornaments, gift bags, holiday windsocks with the Youth Services Department, holiday sticker craft and treat with Windsor Drive Branch staff, a cake walk hosted by Reference Services, bean bag toss game hosted by the Technical Services Department, and a visit and pictures made with Santa.
Refreshments of hot chocolate, hot apple cider and cookies, and popcorn and punch were also available served by various staff members of the library.