HARLETON — Harleton’s annual Christmas parade, benefitting the local fire department, may be canceled this year due to COVID-19; but the Christmas spirit and fundraising will carry on through a new event, the “Harleton Holidays Outdoor Market”, set for Saturday, Dec. 5.

“This year with all the COVID and everything that’s going on, we’re not going to have our normal Christmas parade,” said Harleton’s Emergency Services District No. 8 fire chief, Mike Harper.

“Our Christmas parade is a time for all of our community to come together and get to see everybody,” he shared. “We get them to see our facilities and what the fire department has done over the last year to improve equipment and capabilities and things like that.

“But it’s also a fundraiser at that time, because we serve lunch,” he said.

The annual post-parade lunch becomes an open house, allowing the public to come into the fire department to check out the new fire apparatus and equipment, hear about the fire department’s latest trainings and watch some demonstrations.

“When we have an event like that, everybody gets involved and everybody donates to the fire department, so it helps us along throughout the year with things that we need,” said Harper, sharing they were able to purchase a new truck this past year.

“It’s just a time for the community to come out and see what they’ve been supporting for all these years and continue to support us some more,” he said.

He said the annual fundraiser helps fill in the gap for things that’s not afforded in the fire department’s budget.

“We’re ESD No. 8, which has been a game changer for all the fire departments,” he said of being able to convert to an ESD. “It’s a big deal. We have a budget that we follow every year and then there’s still times that things come up that we didn’t plan for that we didn’t have in our budget. That’s what we use these fundraisers for.”

When the pandemic hit, it threatened the budget greatly.

“With this COVID, nobody budgeted for all that,” said Harper. “Big surprise...”

Nevertheless, he’s grateful for a group of local artisans, led by his wife Dolanda Harper and friend, Wendy Newman, who came up with the idea of the Harleton Holidays Outdoor Market to provide the public a safe holiday event as well as raise money for the ESD.

“It’s awesome and will help us because they’re going to raise money for the fire department, our community still gets to come out and get together in an open environment; so it’s safe for everybody,” said Harper. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Ooutdoor Market Plans

Newman said organizers for the Harleton Holidays Outdoor Market are excited about the new event.

“His wife Dolanda and I love to craft,” said Newman, sharing they both have craft shops — Chalkin World and the Craft Shack — that are advertised on Facebook.

Once they found out their Pinners Conference was canceled in Forth Worth, they decided to invite some crafters to Harleton to have a spacious outlet to showcase their work and help the ESD.

“I just said, Dolanda, we can make this happen,” said Newman. “I just put it out there … and boy it went nuts. I have 31 vendors as of now.”

Newman said the owners of Wright on Taco Shop in Harleton graciously allowed them to host the event on the lot behind the eatery.

“Our community is so good,” Newman said, thanking the taco shop.

The lot is located in the block across the street from the elementary and junior high schools on Highway 154. The event is slated from 10 a.m. until dark.

Social distancing, masks and hand sanitizer is encouraged for vendors and shoppers. Everything from vintage, repurposed items to canned and baked goods, boutique gifts, original designs, clothes, jewelry, furniture and laser art will be available for purchase.

“It’s gotten big,” said Newman, sharing they have crafters from surrounding areas participating, too.

“They just want to get out and have fun,” she said. “With COVID, everybody’s been home making stuff and doing stuff, so this will be an outlet for them.”

The money from the $10 vendor fees along with donations collected at the event will be presented to the fire department.

“We are going to have a boot for donations,” said Newman. “People won’t be charged to come in; they can just contribute.”

She’s glad they’ll be able to provide a spacious event to allow for social distancing.

“The neat thing about outside is you don’t have to go right up to the booth, you can point what you want and your person can hand it to you safely; so I think it will be fine,” she said. “The booth space will be their space, plus extra for social distancing; and everybody will have masks and hand sanitizers and are encouraged to observe that.”

Organizers are also looking forward to having local musicians, including Harleton native and recording artist, Sonja Atkins, performing.

“It’ll be a fun day,” said Newman.

She encourages the public to come out and support the Holiday Outdoor Market fundraiser to benefit the fire department.

“If they’re like me, they just need to get out and breathe some fresh air, so just come and come see what these artisans have made,” she encouraged. “There’s some really beautiful things coming and these people are local and they’re artisans; they are craftsman.”

“They have their own unique items and they craft and I’d love for everybody to see that,” she said.

About ESD No.8

Harleton’s ESD No. 8 serves northwest Harrison County and covers about 121 square miles. The department moved into its current facility eight years ago and underwent a state of the art remodeling through a grant. Since, it’s hosted a full fire academy at the facility and trainings. The fire department boasts 42 firefighters.

“They’re all committed. We’ve got good people out here,” said Harper.

The fire chief encourages all to support the upcoming fundraising event.

“As long as it doesn’t rain this is going to take place,” he said of the market.