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Holiday kick-off named Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 event

Mistletoe Marketplace sparks holiday season Nov. 2

JACKSON – Mistletoe Marketplace, the largest charity fundraiser in Mississippi and a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 event, will celebrate a milestone when the Junior League of Jackson kicks off its 20th year Nov. 2 as host of the annual four-day shopping spree at the Mississippi Trade Mart in Jackson.

“Twenty years ago, the Junior League of Jackson set out to find a way to fund the increasing number of community needs in the metro Jackson area. The solution: a holiday market that featured a variety of merchants and their wares. The result: Mistletoe Marketplace,” said Lisa Avra, this year’s chairwoman.

Planning for Mistletoe Marketplace, which ushers in the holiday season for more than 35,000 shoppers who make the annual pilgrimage to buy goodies from more than 100 merchants around the U.S. – this year, 122 merchants will participate – and to take part in special festivities, begins 14 months in advance, with more than 500 volunteers logging a cumulative 12,000-plus hours.

Last year, Mistletoe Marketplace raised $684,000, with 100% of the proceeds returned to the community, said Lou Ann Durfey, co-chairman of the event.

“We were glad to be able to cover our expenses and turn it all back over to the community to fund the Junior League’s community projects,” Durfey said.

Instead of the traditional 80% of profits generated from the shopping extravaganza that supports 20 community projects focusing on three areas – health, education and community – 100% of the proceeds will be returned to the community for the second year in a row, partly because of the Junior League’s success from selling its award-winning cookbooks, “Come on In” and “Southern Sideboards,” said Durfey.

“Every year, we vote on different focuses, and several ideas have been batted around for next year, including perhaps the establishment of a children’s arts museum, or projects that include a new focus area, or working with the five area hospitals on a joint project,” she said. “I’m not sure what we’ll decide.”

Two programs that will likely remain intact include REACH (Recreational Enrichment and Activities for Children’s Health), an 18-year program, and Rockin’ Mamas, a 20-year program which involves 12 volunteers on a one-year placement to rock babies as needed at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. A new hospice ministries program was added this year, where volunteers provide family support.

“We see ourselves as a helping hand,” Durfey said.

This year’s special events include the black tie optional Mistletoe Preview Gala on the evening of Nov. 1, where the Capitol City Band will entertain approximately 3,200 people at $60 per ticket. The three-hour event alone is expected to garner nearly $200,000. Only 1,200 tickets, at $20 each, will be sold for the Marketplace Brunch, prepared by The University Club, for Friday morning crowd-free shopping from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Tickets to Business After Hours, co-sponsored by the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce and the Junior League of Jackson, where business folks have a chance to network and shop, are $15 this year – up from $10 – and will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 2.

A new event, The Spirit of Mistletoe Celebration, is scheduled Sunday, Nov. 5, from noon until 5 p.m., where children who donate new or slightly worn coats receive a free photograph with St. Nicholas, the fourth-century patron saint of charity and the symbol of Mistletoe Marketplace 2000.

“We thought St. Nicholas better represented what we were trying to do rather than Santa Claus,” Durfey said.

About 50 donated coats are anticipated, and will be distributed to residents of Jackson’s West Park neighborhoods.

“Our Sunday event is designed to tangibly remind our community of Mistletoe Marketplace’s purpose – the spirit of giving,” said Avra. “We want to celebrate our 20-year tradition and what Mistletoe Marketplace has helped the Junior League of Jackson accomplish for our community.”

Other events include Mistletoe Morning, which includes brunch catered by The Broad Street Baking Company & Caf

About Lynne W. Jeter

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