Christmas crowds surge on Dahlonega Square
It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas on the downtown square Friday night. And, judging from the unexpectedly massive crowds, it also started to look a little like Gold Rush Days.
The Fudge Factory’s Jane O’Gorman had one word for the evening square-lighting event.
“Amazing,” she said after the crowds had cleared Monday afternoon. “I’ve never seen so many people on the square for this.”
Kathy Aerts, owner of Cranberry Corners agreed.
“Unbelievable” she said. “… People were happy to be here. I did even better on Saturday than Friday.”
Old Mountain Collectors owner Reggie Curtiss was impressed as well.
“It was wall to wall” she said. “And the Wine Cellar was covered up too.”
Whether it was the Chamber’s presence on the web, a recent Dahlonega-themed Southern Living article, word of mouth or the perfect weather, visitors flocked to the square from early Saturday, long before events were scheduled to begin.
In fact, business was a bit too good at Smokin’ Gold BBQ.
The popular downtown restaurant had to close down at 5 p.m. as they began to run out of meats.
“We were getting low on food around 4:30,” said owner Dan Dieterle.
Most downtown eateries reported waits of over an hour during the prime light-viewing hours.
Meanwhile, O’Gorman had not planned on working Friday, but was on the square as a volunteer for Community Helping Place to be one of the people manning the table selling the Official Dahlonega Christmas Ornament.
“I came in at 4 p.m. and this place was jumping,” she said. “I ended up working here until just before 8 o’clock. We gave out 400 cups of hot chocolate in an hour and 20 minutes before we ran out.”
They also ran out of four pans of peppermint fudge cut into bite-size pieces.
Craft tables for the Children of All Ages Tree were swamped from the minute they opened at 5 p.m., and stayed busy until the last child finished her ornament at 8:05 p.m. By the end of the evening the 11-foot tree was covered top to bottom with handmade ornaments.
Parking was scarce around downtown as visitors pulled into makeshift spaces along surrounding side streets.
City Manager Bill Schmid said he hopes that visitors will learn to use UNG parking for upcoming Christmas events.
"Many people were able to take advantage of these lots during the lighting ceremony in the square, but they were not full," he said. "We are expecting large crowds for the upcoming Christmas parade and encourage visitors to take advantage of the UNG parking lots for that event."
On Monday, Aerts said the sizable crowd seems to be a sign that people are ready to get in the holiday spirit.
“With all that’s happening in the world today it’s the small town stuff, the old fashioned stuff that people want to get back to,” she said. “People want to get back to the simple stuff.”