CORUNNA — There was plenty to “ooh and aah” about Saturday at the 31st Country Christmas at the Courthouse.
Not only the craft vendors’ wares and the groups singing and playing bells in the courtroom, but the decorated pine tree in the rotunda reaching up 30 feet to the third floor.
“I love the Christmas tree — it’s gorgeous,” said four-year vendor Carolyn Wilkinson of Owosso, who was selling pillowcases and “Carol’s Critters” pillows. “And the people are great — they come in all dressed for Christmas in their elk and reindeer hats.
This year’s tree was donated by Shawn Scepka of Scepka Farms in honor of his late father, Jerry Scepka, the subject of a tribute plaque at the base of the tree.
By 1 p.m., hundreds of people had already stopped by to experience a longtime tradition that has continued with gusto under 35th Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart’s tenure. His wife, Nicole Stewart, coordinates the event.
“I think it’s important because it allows folks in Shiawassee County to sell some of their beautifully crafted items, and to look at their courthouse, which is the jewel stone of the county,” Matthew Stewart said. “I can’t show it off enough.”
Ten-year-old Maddi Gruzd agreed.
“It’s big, and it’s pretty,” she said as she sat in the courtroom with her grandmother, Janis Selfridge of Owosso, gazing at the detailed artwork painted inside the cupola.
Throughout the day in Stewart’s courtroom on the third floor, preschool children from the Congregational Child Development Center, the Durand Madrigals, First United Methodist Church choir and bell choir, and Janelle Pauldine’s Central Elementary kindergarten class sang holiday songs for a packed gallery.
“We did it last year, and I thought it was a really great experience, so we came back,” Pauldine said just before her students took the “stage.” “It gives the children the real-life experience of performing in front of a crowd. That’s a skill they can use later in life, so matter what they do.”
Meanwhile, on the second floor, local author Sally Labadie offered her books for sale at a vendor booth, among them her memoir “And You Thought I Retired.”
“I’ve been coming here four or five years,” Labadie said. “I see a lot of people and vendors I know, it’s always really festive — and I do sell a lot of books.”
Merchandise included candles made from wine bottles, Christmas wreaths, clothing filling a corner section, baked goods sold by the Corunna High School marching band and the custom “Owosso-opoly” board game.
Nicole Stewart said she starts organizing Christmas in the Courthouse in September, reaching out to vendors. She and her husband came to the courthouse when the vendors set up Friday night, and the couple were back at 7 a.m. Saturday, putting on the finishing touches before opening at 9 a.m.
“My favorite part is the music,” Nicole Stewart said. “They perform in this beautiful courtroom that is 100 years old, where their voices resonate. It’s a great kickoff to Christmas.”