CHRISTMAS IN OCTOBER

Sheila Graf, left, shows a book to Pat Lee at the Nature Co. of Salado storefront as the Salado Chamber of Commerce Ladies Auxiliary hosts Christmas in October at the Venue in Salado on Saturday. Graf hails from Salado while Lee drives from San Angelo to see every home Mary Hardin-Baylor football game.

SALADO — Christmas came early in Salado.

As it has done for many years, the Salado Chamber of Commerce Ladies Auxiliary hosted Christmas in October on Friday and Saturday of the second weekend of the month. Maurine Nathanson, cochairman of the fundraiser, said it usually draws about 1,200 people.

Held this year at The Venue on Royal Street, the event gave visitors a chance to shop for holiday decorations, jewelry, clothing home décor and collector items.

“There’s a little bit of everything,” she said.

There was also a bake sale, which featured fudge made by Salado Mayor Skip Blancett and his wife, Gail.

“It’s a real hit,” said Barb Swarthout, auxiliary member, who helped with the bake sale and also modeled clothing.

One-pound packages of fresh pecan halves were very popular, she said. The pecans came from Pecan.com in Goldthwaite.

Jennifer Clark, publicity chairman for the event, said it raised about $16,000 last year.

“The bake sale alone raises about $3,000 each year,” she said. “It’s a community effort. There are people who have been doing it for 30 years. It’s a family tradition.”

Tommye Prater, the other cochairman of Christmas in October, said some of the proceeds go toward college or business school scholarships for Salado High School graduates. Funds also go to various community organizations, she said. In the past, those have included the Salado Volunteer Fire Department, Salado Family Relief, Salado Community Chorus, AWARE Central Texas, Salado Volunteers and the Body of Christ Dental Clinic.

Prater introduced three sisters who have been coming to the event for many years: Jan Lindsey of Kemp, Joy Kirby of Friendswood and Scharlotte Helsley of Kemp. Helsley said there’s a fourth, Linda Lunday of Mesquite, who stayed at home because of her husband’s health problems.

“We range from 82 on down,” Kirby said.

Helsley said she stumbled on the event 30 years ago.

“I was buying cattle down here,” she said. “We had to stay the night.”

The sisters said they always stay at the Stagecoach Inn. They come to “run away from home,” Lindsey said. “We like Christmas.”

“We all decided to leave our husbands and kids home and have a sister holiday,” Kirby said of how it all got started.

They buy Christmas presents, stocking stuffers and other things, she said.

“We are shoppers,” Helsley said. “We pick and choose. I always get the pecans every year. They were $5.99 (a pound) when we first came here. Now they’re $12. They’re very good. I do a lot of baking.”