Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 12/7/16
There’s one Hunterdon County borough that has all of the makings for a classic Christmas.
Flemington, which boasts a historic district, shops large and small and a full calendar of holiday events, pulls in tons of holiday visitors each year — and for good reason.
“The historic architecture makes you feel like you’re stepping back in time when you walk down the street,” said Patricia Millen, executive director of the Hunterdon County Historical Society. “This is such a pretty, charming town with a high concentration of 19th century buildings, plus, it’s very walkable and many of the homes and stores are decorated.”
Laura Cummins, director of membership and events of the Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce, said that she, too, feels like she is traveling back in time when she sees the simple yet classic holiday decorations, such as wreaths, lights or candlelit windows that adorn the historic Flemington homes.
Besides homeowners, Flemington businesses of all sizes make a strong effort to decorate and celebrate the holidays. This year, Grateful Bites, a nonprofit café and bakery at 42 State Route 12, will conduct its Yuletide Festival on Saturday, Dec. 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. which will feature complimentary desserts, sugar cookie decorating, live music, face painting and photos with Santa.
Also, Barkley’s Gourmet Marketplace at 79 Main St. will offer $15 pet photos with Santa on Thursday, Dec. 8, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and the Hunterdon County Historical Society will hold free holiday tours of the Doric House Museum at 114 Main Street on Saturday, Dec. 10, and Sunday, Dec. 11, from 1 to 5 p.m.
Plus, about 30 Flemington businesses are participating in the third annual window decorating contest, in which visitors have the opportunity to vote for their favorite decorated window via ballet box in each store for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to any Flemington business. One business will be crowned the winner on Friday, Dec. 23.
With so many small businesses, the Shoppes at Flemington as well as the Liberty Village Premium Outlets, Flemington also make for an ideal shopping destination, giving shoppers the opportunity to find unique artisan items as well as big-name items.
“Shopping here is so not a chore,” said Judy Goodwin, executive director of the Flemington Community Partnership. “You go into one store and you get to experience something very carefully curated and then next door is the best coffee you have ever had, so it becomes this little adventure.”
Since there also so many holiday events going on alongside shopping, holiday shopping also takes on a new child-friendly family tone — Santa Claus can be found shopping throughout the borough for the next few weekends.
If you need to take a break from shopping, the Hunterdon County Library at 314 State Route 12 will be displaying some very elaborate gingerbread house creations — including those modeled after borough homes — until Dec. 18. Also, the Black River and Western Railroad is hosting its three themes of holiday train rides until Dec. 23 — Candy Cane Limited, perfect for small children, the North Pole Express, which features more time with Santa and Mrs. Claus and face painting, and Victorian Christmas special featuring carolers.
This year, the Black River and Western Railroad is teaming up with the Holiday Hands program, which is the largest gift program in the county. Riders can bring their new, unwrapped donation to Flemington Station at 80 Stangl Road the day of their train ride, which will be delivered to the United Way of Hunterdon County’s Community Volunteer Center for distribution to families in need.
“I think that Flemington is at its very finest during the holiday season,” Goodwin said. “It’s filled with laughter, happiness and warm community spirit and the businesses make a really strong effort to make the holidays special.”
Cummins note that at the Hunterdon Holiday Parade that took place on Dec. 4, which included all types of holiday-themed floats, decorated vehicles, antique cars and marching units, everyone from families to local business owners made their way to the early highlight of the holiday season in Hunterdon County.
“Coming from Philadelphia to Hunterdon County, I’ve always thought that there is a really strong sense of community here,” Cummins said. “It’s not just neighbors looking after neighbors — it’s also business neighbors looking out for one another.”