Vendors, attendance climb for 2005 Celebration Village

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Published: November 7,2005

Tupelo — Transforming the Tupelo Furniture Market into a seasonal holiday village, regional vendors, shoppers and community volunteers rallied together in support of the Sanctuary Hospice House (SHH) with the 2005 Celebration Village October 27-29.

The 2005 event was the largest to date, with about 130 vendors, representing an increase of 20 from 2004, according to Linda Gholston, SHH administrator. Attendance climbed as well — from 15,000 in 2004 to 17,000 this year.

“The spirit of Northeast Mississippi is awesome,” Gholston said. “A group of people with vision for inpatient hospice have done what many said was impossible. If anyone needs an example of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, they only need to look at SHH and Celebration Village.”

While final figures weren’t available as of press time, organizers anticipated that 2005 revenue would exceed the previous year by about 10%. Launched in 2002 as a holiday market with an emphasis on Christmas, Celebration Village has netted between $200,000 and $250,000 each year for the benefit of Sanctuary Hospice House, which will officially open its doors in West Tupelo in late November as the first inpatient hospice in rural America, according to SHH officials.

A September SHH ribbon cutting drew dignitaries and volunteers from throughout the region, many of whom have been dedicated to the cause since SHH planning began in 1999. For the past five years, the market funds have been used to ease construction costs. This year and in future years, officials said, the proceeds will go towards operating the inpatient hospice facility.

Gholston said that thanks to the generosity of V.M. and Melanie Cleveland, Celebration Village has a “home” in the Tupelo Furniture Market, which provides ample room for exhibitors to display their goods and plenty of parking in a highly-visible location in Northeast Mississippi.

Celebration Village 2005 began with a preview party on Wednesday evening and a Thursday brunch, which was limited to 500 for “early bird” shopping, food and jazz. General shopping hours followed the rest of Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Gholston said that a diverse variety of vendors is a key to the event’s success. Vendors have ranged from all types of jewelry, food, clothes, antiques, golf, learning materials, books, toys, indoor home items and even pet accessories. Vendors are chosen on a number of factors, including quality and rarity of products and prior market experience. Vendors interviewed during the market said that they found it rewarding to combine their business enterprises with a worthy cause, such as SHH.

Sugarplum Tree vendor Lisa Lindsey of Booneville said that the support of volunteers really made the market stand out, and Gholston noted that about 200 volunteers contribute their time each year to Celebration Village. Offering items ranging from handmade children’s clothing, quilts and purses to jewelry and gift items, Lindsey said that it was her first year at Celebration Village and that she learned a lot from the experience.

Jan Bullock, owner of The Posey Place in Brookhaven, has had a Celebration Village booth since the event’s creation. Marketing bath luxury items, heirloom children’s clothing and crocheted gifts, Bullock said that she has seen Celebration Village grow each year and that she has developed a loyal following of customers in this region.

While organizers wrapped up 2005 Celebration Village, they didn’t have much time to rest, as planning was already underway for 2006.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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