Pennsylvania Christmas & Gift Show: Kicking Off the Holiday Season
by Sylvia Blair | Photos supplied by Pennsylvania Christmas & Gift Show
The Pennsylvania Christmas and Gift Show, held annually in Harrisburg, is expected to once again draw tens of thousands of people for a one-of-a-kind, five-day holiday extravaganza. The event has captivated generations of visitors over 35 years and attracts many newcomers to a sneak peek at the season.
This year’s event is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28, through Sunday, Dec. 2. The show has evolved into a popular day-trip destination for local residents, or a long weekend for regional and national travelers. The show is held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center.
“The Pennsylvania Christmas and Gift Show is the premiere event of all events held here each year,” said expo center executive director Sharon Altland-Myers. “The event has significant economic impact, as one of the largest holiday shows in the area. It is also an inspiration for other shows. We are grateful to have the opportunity to be the host.”
All Things Christmas
Offering handcrafted gifts, original musical performances and a traditional hot, savory holiday meal, the show has developed a reputation as a one-stop source of all things Christmas. About 780 booths operated by 475 local, national and international vendors will fill up 350,000 square feet of the 1-million-square-foot expo center.
“We offer a whole Christmas experience with immersion in sights, sounds, smells and holiday ambience, well before Christmas. And, of course, people come to shop for those hard- to-find custom gifts and creations from artisans around the world,” said show co-founder and organizer Pattie Mahoney, whose son Mike Mahoney also works on putting together the show. Pattie’s husband Dick Mahoney is the retired co-founder of the show.
While shopping styles and tastes have evolved over the decades, traditional favorites returning this year include a Santa’s workshop for children, school choirs, choral groups and dance troupes. A unique fixture on the main show floor is the Reading Historical and Technological Society’s large train display, including a replica of the Hershey chocolate factory.
Bonding and Anticipation
Kelly Kleckner of Pottsville is returning with her mother, aunts, cousins and sister for the fourth year. She calls it a day of shopping and bonding with close family members and a highlight of the year.
Of special interest are the holiday decorations and presents and homemade knickknacks, which surprise and amaze her every year, she said.
“Shoppers receive so many perks all in one day,” said Kleckner. “We enjoy a festive atmosphere, special girls’ time and a retreat away from the rest of the world,” said Kleckner.
Some of her favorite purchases from years past were outdoor and indoor Christmas wreaths with finely-cut wood pieces, delicate floral arrangements and cheery snowmen. A decorated tree with rustic cones, wood sticks and wool twine caught her eye last year, and it now complements the seasonal decor on her home mantel.
Helpful Services at the Show
Organizers of the event say they place special emphasis on creating a smooth, easy experience for visitors during each day of the show. The show producers make tickets available in advance and at the door. There are coat check and free package check services located in the center of the show.
Sprinkled throughout the facility are a variety of snack stands, and a full-service cafeteria serves a traditional holiday meal on the upper level. Visitors stop for replenishment throughout the day, comparing notes about their findings and returning to the show for more shopping.
“We have placed plenty of seating around the show floor for a little respite for tired feet,” said Pattie. “And an information service desk helps visitors to navigate the large open spaces.”
For added convenience, post office workers provide a full range of postal services, including stamps, mailing packages and authenticating packages with the date and location of the purchase.
A Labor of Love
“The Pennsylvania Christmas and Gift Show is my life,” said Pattie Mahoney. “It is what we do. I love it that people come back year after year. They are not just shopping. They are not just listening to music. They are here to catch up with loved ones, and to hear about family graduations, weddings and births,” she said.
“We have the most beautiful and blessed day. We go home tired and happy and ready for the next year of fun,” said Pattie. “It is nice to know that we make people happy.”