Carolyn Grubb hung the stockings on the fireplace with care, while vendors prepared for the shoppers who would soon be there. With Christmas just over a month away, the 17th annual Valhalla Holiday Faire started Friday night for gift-seekers looking to begin their holiday shopping early.
If you ask some of the 24 participating vendors though, it's not all about the business.
"They have the chorus come all afternoon. It was really delightful, really nice to listen to. It's a long drive, but it's fun," Susan Taubman with Loomis-based Placer Gold Honey said Thursday as she and her husband prepared their display.
Arrayed along the second-floor balcony above the grand hall, choirs from South Shore elementary schools and South Tahoe Middle School will sing Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Grubb, the administrative assistant at the Tahoe Tallac Association, said people often reminisce about their memories of the chorus.
"People come up to me and say they always came to sing at Valhalla, and I love hearing that. It's really fun to hear the excitement in their voices," she said.
There's been a recent push to incorporate more Tahoe vendors in the fair, and Grubb said many of the items on display are from South Shore businesses. Tahoe Mountain Soap Co.'s Dave Carpenter, who has attended the fair annually for the past 15 years, said it's a fun, profitable event to kick off the holidays.
Forest Furniture co-owners Julianne Cohn and Marianne Rosenfeld set up their table on Thursday, lining the display with carved bear candleholders and paw print lamps.
"It seems to be a smaller, more local crowd. The local kids all come out and sing. I remember when my kids were singing in the choir," she said.
In addition to the singing and the shopping, Father Christmas will make a special guest appearance in an upstairs workshop filled with stuffed animals and candy canes. Hot mulled wine, cider and cookies will be available for purchase.
It's not just the festivities that draw the crowds, according to Grubb. The Holiday Faire provides a rare opportunity to see the inside of the historic Valhalla estate.
To step inside the grand hall is like stepping back in time, Grubb said. Solid wooden beams support the roof, a rock fireplace - decorated with stockings and tinsel - dominates one wall, and a 22-foot live Christmas tree fills the far corner. The house, built in 1923, is often booked for weddings and not always open to the public, Grubb said.
"I would say that people should come just to see the beauty of this building decorated. You can't compare it to anything else. There's just so few historic places left," she said.