February 04, 2023

Retailers, residents join Santa and the Grinch at Courthouse lighting

Good weather brought crowds to downtown stores for the holiday shopping weekend

Even the Grinch was full of Christmas spirit on Friday, Nov. 25, as children ran to hug him and have a photo taken with him in front of the Jasper County Courthouse.

The Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce made sure there were plenty of seasonal delights for its annual courthouse lighting event, including “snow,” popcorn, Christmas carols and horse-drawn wagon rides.

Store owners around the scene of “The Night Before Christmas”-themed event were glad that many creatures were stirring around the square.

Cookies and candies are popular at Stacy’s Sweetstuff all year, but owner Stacy Grams said the sweetness gets turned up a notch when the cotton candy starts swirling in her store just after the lighting of the courthouse. “There will be a line out the door,” Grams said. “Everybody knows when Stacy is making cotton candy.”

Store owners, happy with good weather and brisk sales on Black Friday, took a moment to ponder what their Christmas wishes would be for the City of Newton and its residents.

“I am pretty passionate for the homeless,” Grams said. “I would like a homeless shelter in town. That would be my wish.”

Stephanie Moran, owner of Silverado Boutique, said personalized jewelry is the store’s most popular item for Christmas gifts, but that clothing and boutique jewelry are big sellers as well, especially since shoppers can find something unique at their price point.

As for her wish for Newton, Moran said she hoped the town would come together. “We have come together so many times throughout the years, and I hope we can continue to support one another.”

Regina Frohm, owner of Esther & Company, said her hot sellers of the day were cutting boards and chirpy-top wine aerators, as well as bakery items, which were almost sold out before 6 p.m.

Frohm said she was grateful “for the opportunity to be together and conduct almost normal lives” again. “In the past two or three years, we’ve all lost someone, I think. We should be happy to be open and working and to have our people around us.”

Bonnie Terpstra, owner of The Farmer’s Wife, said lighted snow globes were flurrying out the door on Black Friday. Just before the lighting of the courthouse, shoppers were still hurrying in to check out her Christmas wares.

Terpstra said she hopes Newton’s citizens can appreciate the traditions Newton has and to realize that there are “a lot of great things going on here.” She added that many people “want to focus on the negatives, but I want people to see the positives.”

Boy Scouts Reuben Layton, 14, and Ben Shafer, 13, were busy selling Christmas wreaths and handmade ornaments for Troop 354 on the courthouse grounds. Layton said he hoped everyone could be happy this Christmas, and Shafer said citizens should have fun and be happy. Shafer’s dad, Lance, said he hoped residents could still capture that feeling of believing in Santa no matter their age.

Craig Armstrong, a member of Hope Local Church of Newton, wasn’t selling anything on Black Friday, but he was giving away packets of hot cocoa mix and inviting people to a Christmas Eve service at Capitol II Theatre. His wish for Newton citizens was that they would “remember the reason for the season is Jesus.

“If they do, they will have the merriest Christmas beyond their wildest dreams,” he said.

Kelly Sorenson, who handles communications and outreach for Newton schools, said she was thankful that the school district received a grant to give out 175 books during the lighting event. Her wish? “For each kid in the district to get a book tonight.”

Santa Claus, who greeted children and their families in the courthouse, paused for just a moment before he thought of his wish for the town. Then it came to him: “Snow!”

Many residents who were asked about their wishes for their friends and neighbors said they would want everyone to experience good health and a merry Christmas.

Janet Rinehart said her wish is for “growth and prosperity” for Newton.

Ceonna Chandler, who held her dog Daisy as she spoke, said she wished Newton would have “better political figures and more political activism.”

Alexa Rutherford, an employee at Earthwise Pet Nutrition Center and Wellness Spa, said business was brisk on Friday.

“People do buy Christmas presents for their pets,” she said.

Big sellers for Rutherford were balls and dog treats.

Her good-natured wish for Newton citizens?

“To have the potholes fixed,” she said.