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'Narnia meets Saxapahaw:' Shopping, live music and food on tap for holiday market

Narnia is coming to Saxapahaw. Not actually, but it is the way that organizers describe the Saxaphaw Holiday Market at the Haw River Ballroom that is set for Dec. 4.

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Sydney Franklin
, WRAL multiplatform producer
GRAHAM, N.C. — Narnia is coming to Saxapahaw.

Not actually, but it is the way that organizers describe the Saxaphaw Holiday Market at the Haw River Ballroom that is set for Dec. 4 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

"It's a very holiday market ... kind of old Europe feeling. We've got garlands everywhere and trees everywhere," said Heather LaGarde, co-owner and founder of the Haw River Ballroom. "Very alternative lists of music will be played and every kind of holiday music celebration you can imagine."

For this year's event, there will be over 60 artists and vendors.

"We're having lots of pottery, crocheted goods and chocolate," said market manager Malik Walker.

But, it's not just all about the shopping, the holiday market will also have local musicians performing and food available.

"We've got a full lineup of music coming. We have people playing the piano and people singing from different bands. [We're] super excited about having all of them in the space," said Walker.

The annual holiday market is a prime opportunity to support local businesses as supply chain issues are already forecasting product shortages for the upcoming holiday shopping season.

While there will be vendors at the event from Raleigh to Greensboro, event organizers said the majority of vendors live within 10 miles of Saxapahaw.

"That's really why we do it, because we feel like showcasing all the beautiful artisans that are right from around here and helping local families have a venue to sell their beautiful artwork," said LaGarde.

Event organizers said at it's core the holiday market is about community spirit.

"Behind the scenes, vendors become friends [and] everybody gets to know their neighbors ... it usually turns into a big dance party at the end," said LaGarde.

Walker, who has spent the past several months preparing for the holiday market, even has experience being a vendor. Walker said that when he was in high school, his mother rented him a booth to sell his crochet work.

"I think I was making things on the fly ... I was running out of stuff, so I was just sitting there making extra pieces," he said. "Everybody does really, really well and people come back year after year."

Now he's using that experience -- and his community connections from going up in Alamance County -- to help curate this year's holiday market.

"The person selling [at the holiday market] can tell stories, and they can show you what they make. It can really be a real, direct connection with the person who made the thing that you're going to end up taking home," said Walker.

"You know the story, and you know the person that you're helping, and they know who you are and where their beautiful thing is going, so it's very personalized that way," he added.

In years past, the event has been wall-to-wall packed, but after a year of cancelations from the coronavirus pandemic, event organizers are making sure extra steps are in place to keep vendors and shoppers safe. Everyone will be required to wear a mask, and holiday market staff will be keeping an eye on the number of people in the venue to make sure it doesn't get too crowded.

But for those ready for a more normal-looking holiday season, the market is a great way to kickstart the season.

"We see all different ages of people coming every year, and I think it makes people feel very much into the holiday spirit," said Walker.

Event organizers add that if you're heading to the holiday market, it's also a great time to explore the surrounding businesses and Saxapahaw community.

If you need a caffeine pick-me-up while doing your holiday shopping, stop by Cup 22, which is also located at the Haw River Ballroom. You can sip on gourmet coffees and teas and munch on homemade baked goods while overlooking the Haw River on the coffee shop's patio.

"That community feeling, to me, is all what Saxapahaw is about, and the other businesses here are also all doing holiday-ish things," said LaGarde.

Those trekking to Saxapahaw can also stop by several other unique local businesses in the area.

Left Bank Butcher, located at 1729 Saxapahaw Bethlehem Church Road, is the only whole-animal butchery and charcuterie shop in the Triangle, according to its website. Orders are accepted between 5 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Tuesday for the upcoming week.

The butchery's shop is also open for walk-in and pickup 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

On the butchery's website, some of the options include brisket burgers, Mexican chorizo and fall sausage -- which includes fermented apple and butternut squash, rosemary, honey and chili flake.

Charcuterie lovers can order smoked molasses bacon, cajun tasso ham, bacon and onion jam and pimento cheese to kick their boards up a notch.

There's also the Saxapahaw General Store, which describes itself as "your local five star gas station." The store serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner and sells local produce, health and beauty products and craft beer and wine.

"There's a whole bunch of stuff that people can do while they're here," said LaGarde. "It can be a really fun, full day out for families to get their dinner, their lunch, go hike on the river, go shopping and hangout together."


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