Marion, Indiana is Christmas City, USA
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Christmas City, USA

Downtown Marion is hosting an artisan fair, a Christmas parade and the Walkway of Lights this weekend

By Becca Robb | Echo

Downtown Marion Artisan Fair

Used with permission from Angie Martz.

Some consider Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to be the Christmas kingdom of America. But Grant County locals point instead to Marion, Indiana as the true Christmas City, USA.

Tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Downtown Marion Artisan Fair is selling goodies including hand-stamped jewelry, bakery, art and handmade cards.

“We want to promote the arts we have here in Grant County, because we truly have some amazing people,” said Angie Martz, the fair’s main organizer.

The annual fair started four years ago with 12 vendors setting up their booths in a dance studio. This year includes upwards of 35 vendors, who will set up in downtown Marion’s Grant County YMCA. Martz estimated that 99 percent of the products for sale are handmade.

One of Martz’s goals is to encourage economic growth within the community. Martz is president of Marion’s chapter of Woman’s Life, an organization that sells life insurance and raises money for nonprofit organizations.

Through renting out booths in the venue, the national Woman’s Life organization will match up to $500 of the rent revenue using their dollar-for-dollar program. Vendors may keep their sales revenue, but their booth rental fee will contribute toward the fund. Woman’s Life plans to donate $1,000 from the rent revenue to The Salvation Army’s Christmas fund.

“I think it’s an important venue,” Martz said. “Our downtown struggles. . . . (But we try to) keep the positive things, as many of them as we can.”

Grant County is the 11th most impoverished county in Indiana (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009–13 Estimates). This puts the average Grant County resident at only $8,655 above the income poverty threshold, according to 2010 U.S. Census Data.

Martz said she hopes visitors will take advantage of nearby shops, increasing economic traffic to downtown Marion. This weekend promises to bring a special holiday spirit to everyone who visits the city.

Tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. will mark the climax of the celebrations, when kids and grown-ups alike gather on the Mississinewa Riverwalk to welcome Santa to town. Marion’s Christmas Parade will march through the Walkway of Lights, which is put on by the Marion Parks Department each year.

These sparkling strands of Christmas lights harken back to Marion’s past as a major manufacturer of the hallowed holiday decorations.

“That’s what Marion was known for, because most of the Christmas lights in the country used to come from Marion,” Martz said. “We want to try and get that festival feel back to our city.”

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