Easton Winter Village opens up in Centre Square, featuring festive vendors and special events
EASTON, Pa. — Bundle up, grab a cup of cocoa, and get ready for a stroll through a winter wonderland set right in the midst of downtown Easton.
Easton’s Winter Village launched its fourth season this Saturday, welcoming dozens of vendors – many with a strong presence in the city itself – to Centre Square for a month-long residency which draws thousands of shoppers to the area.
Mayor Sal Panto Jr., along with Greater Easton Development Partnership (GEDP) Director of Special Events Marcy McKinney, Lehigh Valley Hospital–Hecktown Oaks President Joe Pinto, Pa. Representative Robert Freeman, Easton City Councilmember Taiba Sultana, and city-councilmembers-elect Frank Pintabone and Crystal Rose, kicked off the holiday bonanza on the afternoon of Nov. 18.
After welcoming the crowd who braved the brisk air and chilly blasts of wind, Panto gave a brief history of the event, harkening back to a trip he took to Europe a few years back where he found Christmas Villages.
“Over here, we call it the Winter Village, for a lot of reasons, because we would rather draw circles in Easton so that everybody is inclusive rather than drawing lines.”Sal Panto, mayor of Easton
“Over here, we call it the Winter Village, for a lot of reasons, because we would rather draw circles in Easton so that everybody is inclusive rather than drawing lines,” Panto said.
In the wake of shutdowns and restrictions to retailers during the onset of COVID-19, the Winter Village offered a workaround so local businesses could keep functioning – as Panto put it, “one retailer, they called me up in 2021, and told me right out that if it wasn't for Winter Village, he would be closed for good.”
McKinney heralded the “labor of love” as a special spotlight for Easton’s small businesses and extra-special events.
"It's a great opportunity to show off everything our little city has to offer, and we really have a lot to offer. This year we have so many things going on. Every weekend is packed with activities and free events and ticketed events. The skating rink is open, the shops are open, so take a walk through town and enjoy the season along with all our brick and mortars,” McKinney said.
Some of the spectacles McKinney mentioned include the Polar Express Experience (also available in a sensory-friendly setup), Breakfast with Santa and photos with the big man himself, along with a letters-to-Santa drop off at Easton Outdoor Company, and Cinderella Carriage Rides.
One of the largest hallmarks of the Village is the skating rink, which is free for residents in the 18042 ZIP code, and $5 for non-residents. Skate rentals are available for $5 per person, credit cards only.
Musical performances will include Tuba Christmas at Centre Square, Strolling Carolers and Performers in the Downtown area, and a Parade with Santa and Mayor Panto which includes the Christmas Tree lighting at Scott Park, all set for Nov. 24.
Freeman noted how much he appreciated the way the Winter Village supported the community as a whole, uniting everyone and drawing attention to a wonderful city.
“As the mayor mentioned, it really has served to draw more people back into Downtown, and it provides a very festive setting as we get into the holiday season,” Freeman said.
“There are great opportunities here to purchase merchandise and gifts for the holiday season, to get food and beverages, but also just to explore the Downtown and realize what a wonderful community this truly is, and how fortunate we are that we all pulled together on behalf of this community.”
Panto concluded his remarks by thanking the GEDP, various local sponsors, and the politicians which help to make over 115 special events in the city happen each year.
Vendors for this year’s Winter Village include favorites like Chocodiem, Easton Candle Company, Five Rivers Fabrication, Melmo’s Dog Treats, Sarah Nicole Designs, and many more.
Rachel Zanders, owner of the Easton Candle Company, has been a fixture of the Winter Village since the start, and credits the event with helping to launch her business.
“It was one of my first events once I took my business full time, and it just gave me a lot of confidence that having a retail space in downtown Easton would be successful after having success here,” Zanders said, adding she is looking forward to “peace and fun and the holiday spirit to be shown through customers.”
Zanders said she has plenty of gift sets and grab-and-go gifts to make holiday shopping easy, including plenty of fall-scented items “if you’re not ready for all the Christmas tree scents quite yet.”
Bradley Dilts and Miri Steinmetz, out for a stroll with their dog Lily, said they came out for candles – Dilts is a self-proclaimed “candle aficionado” – made a stop by Melmo’s Dog Treats once Lily caught a smell of the tasty items within.
Once Lily got herself a taste of the homemade treats, she was in heaven.
“She loves them, especially the gingerbread,” Dilts and Steinmetz said.
Melissa Morales, owner of Melmo’s, said she was thrilled to be at the Winter Village for her first year, and enjoyed welcoming plenty of pups into the hut.
“For the past two hours. I've been inundated with dog – that's why I have this open space here, so we have a lot of area for us to do dog consultations,” Morales said. “We have a lot of treats for every dog here. We have things that are wheat-free, things that are soft, even cat treats.”
Master Chocolatier and owner of Chocodiem Jean-Paul “JP” Hepp welcomed the community to stop by his hut to enjoy a cup of indulgent hot chocolate – including an oat milk option for those who avoid dairy – and check out their artisan eats.
“We have our amazing little gnomes,” Hepp said. “We have an artist on staff, and she paints these gnomes and the chocolate bombs. They're pretty arty, and it really distinguishes us from others.”
Kyle Snyder, who lives in Bangor, happened upon the event while going out to eat, and said he was pleasantly surprised with the festive atmosphere.
“This is all eye catching for a lot of people. I would tell anyone that loves Christmas themed stuff, this is definitely the place to go to, especially if you're local in Lehigh Valley,’” Snyder said.
Easton Winter Village runs from Nov. 18 through Dec. 17, from 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays, 1 to 9 p.m. Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, rain, shine, or snow.