Downtown merchants offered a taste of Christmas in a cup, Saturday, as Main Street Marshall hosted its sixth annual “Wassail Walk” competition and “Small Business Saturday” event, in conjunction with the Wonderland of Lights season.

“It’s fun. It gets people out and everybody always has a good time,” said Deb Sorich, co-owner of Central Perks, which has been a frequent first place winner.

From 1 to 5 p.m., 10 participating businesses served up their own version of the comforting holiday delight for shoppers to enjoy. Participating merchants competing for the coveted “Taste of the Town” People’s Choice Award were: Black Bird Bathhouse, Blissmoor Valley Ranch, The Blue Frog, Cajun Tex, Central Perks, Deborah’s Boutique, The General Store, Joe Pine Coffee Co., Square Nutrition, and the Weisman.

Business was very steady for the locations Saturday as patrons came to not only do some Christmas shopping, but also sample a choice of non-alcoholic or spiked wassail.

“We’ve been really, really busy,” Black Bird Bathhouse owner, Raven Lenz, said Saturday as she served a steady flow of shoppers her specialty drink.

“I’m really excited,” Lenz said of Saturday’s competition. “We had one customer that actually came back to tell me how great he thought the wassail was, so I was like that’s enough for me.

“I thought that was just great, because this is our first year ever doing this,” the new business owner said.

“Normally, we do the Wassail Walk as customers, so it’s really fun being on this side, as well,” Lenz said, sharing she loves being a part of the downtown Main Street merchants.

Wassail — a concoction of spiced ale, mulled wine or cider — can include a mixture of other spices and flavors such as ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, apples and oranges. The hot beverage is a seasonal favorite and is traditionally served from a large bowl at Christmastime.

This year, to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, community members were invited to cast their votes virtually for the winners.

“We have pomegranate juice, orange juice and apple cider with some holiday spices, and we feel very excited to participate,” said Conner Ditmore with Joe Pine Coffee Co.

At Black Bird Bathhouse, owner Lenz offered a “plain” and a “loaded” wassail. Lenz said the loaded recipe featured a fireball in the form of cinnamon whiskey.

“We went a little less on the cinnamon sticks and the ground cinnamon and we went more with the cinnamon whiskey,” she said, describing the loaded fireball wassail recipe.

Blue Frog and Blissmoor Valley Ranch partnered up, serving a one-of-a-kind wassail created by Blue Frog owner Shawne Somerford.

“We have an apple and orange flavored wassail spiked with Malibu Rum,” Lyndy McClendon, representing the two locations, said as she described the recipe.

Blue Frog had the spiked version available as Blissmoor offered the non-alcoholic drink.

“It’s very fruity,” McClendon shared.

At Central Perks, Deb Sorich brewed up her signature recipe she’s perfected for years.

“In our wassail, it’s an apple cider base and a bunch of my herbs and spices,” she said, sharing it’s spiked with Grand Marnier and apple Brandy.

The participating downtown merchants along with shoppers all had a fun-filled day.

“It’s a fun, family walk and just like everyone getting together,” said Ditmore with Joe Pine Coffee Co. “It has a sense of like being normal again with the COVID stuff, so it’s been really fun.”

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