Two years after torrential rain hampered the Holiday Market at the Mill, and one year after the pandemic yielded a smaller turnout, the 2021 event rebounded in a big way.
A turnout of more than 6,000 patrons helped set a record for the Yuletide shopping event in the Mill at Community Park.
This year’s holiday bazaar featured 170 vendors, the largest in the event’s history.
“This was the biggest we’ve ever had,” event chairman Betty Fontaine said.
The Saturday session was the busiest day.
More than 3,000 people crowded The Mill and its surrounding area to shop for everything from clothing and jewelry to food and antiques.
A total of 1,000 attended as of noon Friday, largely due to the “early bird” session from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The event also marked the return of Santa and rides on St. Nick’s train for youngsters.
Lisa Hebert, of Baton Rouge, operatea Sister Dulce’s Cypress Springs booth. Proceeds went to her ministry, which involves praying with sick and dying patients in the hopes of a physical and/or spiritual healing.
Hebert is no stranger to Market at the Mill and other events. She had worked Tinsel & Treasures in Lafayette, Hollydays in Baton Rouge and the Seminarian in New Orleans this year.
The large crowd did not surprise her.
“People are just ready to get out and get back to normal life,” Hebert said.
“You can just see it on their faces, and you see a lot of people out here today because they’re enjoying a feeling of freedom they haven’t had in a long time.”
Customer Donna Nicholas, who bought a necklace from the booth, traveled from St. Francisville for the event.
The small-town friendliness has drawn her to the event for several years.
“It’s a pleasant, enjoyable event, and it gives me a chance to help the parish next-door to us,” Nicholas said.
Clear skies and the move forward after last year’s social distancing made the 2021 event far more successful for Saelisa Dright, a New Orleans vendor who sold soaps and candles.
This year’s event was a stark contrast to last year, she said.
“No rain and less COVID has brought more people here,” Dright said. “The only problem is that I’m running low on inventory already.”
Oscar resident Joanie Bishop, a mainstay among vendors, had a steady flow of customers at her booth, “A Rustic Touch.’
The small-town atmosphere helps make the event successful, she said.
“Turnout is very good, but not crowded to the point of being miserable,” Bishop said.
“That’s one of the reasons we get so many people from outside the parish coming to this show, aside from being very well organized.”
This year’s event featured two additional areas that accommodated 50 more vendors than last year.
“Every year, vendors keep telling us how much they enjoy it and want to come back, so this event will probably keep on growing,” Fontaine said.
The Springtime Market at the Mill is scheduled for April 8-10.