Never mind all the hustle and bustle; Christmas is Amy Hammond’s favorite time of the year. When she was growing up in Columbus, Ohio, her family’s festivities began as soon as Thanksgiving was over.
“Winters there can be brutal, so you have to be really serious about decorating to spend hours doing it outside,” said Hammond, president of Special Events Hawaii, a marketing and advertising company specializing in large-scale community events. “We set up a large nativity scene in the yard, strung lights in the maple and dogwood trees, put statues of Santa and reindeer on the porch, and hung wreaths and ribbons by the doors and windows.”
That makes Hammond the perfect “elf” to plan Mele Kalikimaka Marketplace, now in its fifth year, in partnership with Pacific Expos, Hawaii’s largest producer of consumer expos and trade shows. More than 200 vendors will be selling everything from books, food and beauty products to notecards, clothing and crafts.
Don’t miss the handmade Hawaiian products, including lauhala bracelets (Pawehi Creations); pendants carved from cattle bone and koa wood (Mana Tui); Niihau shell lei and earrings (Sandy’s Niihau Shell Creations); and bamboo nose flutes; hau fiber earrings; and kapa (tapa) art, clutches, keychains, magnets and more (Kapa Curious).
Have a sweet tooth? Browse in Candyland, which will be stocked with candy gift jars and a wide variety of chocolates, local snacks and other treats in stocking-stuffer sizes. Sun babies won’t want to miss the sample sale of surf apparel from major companies such as O’Neill.
Beyond shopping, there will be a host of family-friendly diversions, including the perennially popular Gingerbread Workshop (see sidebar).
“Since I didn’t have children of my own, I spent a lot of time during the holidays making gingerbread houses with my niece and nephews,” Hammond said. “Watching them giggle with delight as we built the houses and nibbled on the candy canes, little cookies and other decorations are some of my fondest memories. At the Gingerbread Workshop, people can escape the holiday frenzy for a while and experience that same joy with their friends and family.”
In that section of Mele Kalikimaka Marketplace, kids can also write a letter to Santa and enjoy storytelling, a coloring activity, a variety of games and the chance to throw “snowballs” made of puffy white yarn.
Meanwhile, Ben Franklin Crafts will welcome attendees to discover their inner artist at its make-and-take craft area. This year, the options include candy gift tags, resin projects (likely charms and pens) and pom-pom reindeer and snowman ornaments. Supplies are provided; prices run from $1 to $10, most being in the $3 to $5 range. Participation is on a first-come, first-served basis.
“The crafts are all easy to make, and Ben Franklin staffers are there to help,” Hammond said. “Even people who swear they have no artistic talent are pleasantly surprised when they see their finished product, and the cost is really reasonable for a lasting memento that you’ve made with your own hands.”
There will also be live entertainment and picture-taking opportunities with inflatables set up throughout the venue, including snowmen, Christmas trees and a giant gingerbread house. Santa and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer will be mingling with the crowds on both days and will happily pose for photos. In short, Mele Kalikimaka Marketplace is a huge emporium that doubles as a fun family outing.
“It’s filled with Christmas magic,” Hammond said. “If you’re not already in the holiday spirit, you’ll definitely feel it there.”
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Advertiser have won several Society of American Travel Writers awards.