Christmas Made in the South marking 20 years in Columbus

Janice Hunt was a tole painting artist and she wanted to sell her work. So in 1981, she organized her crafter friends, rented a church’s fellowship hall and publicized the event.

To her surprise, almost 1,500 people attended that craft show.

Her husband, Bob, was so enthusiastic about the show that he decided to make it bigger and better.

Now in its 30th year, Christmas Made in the South is no longer just in Charlotte. It is in six other cities as well — Columbus, Macon, Augusta, Savannah, Jacksonville (Fla.) and Charleston (S.C.).

Their son, Russ, 34, is the assistant director of the show.

“I know it’s called Carolina Shows, but it should be called Georgia Shows,” Russ Hunt said. The shows are very successful in Georgia, and Columbus is celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend hosting the show.

“I think people in Georgia have a fonder appreciation for arts and crafts,” he said. The show offers booths to local artists as well as those who travel from city to city. It also supports local arts groups. Last year, the Columbus show supported Westville, this year, it’s the National Infantry Museum.

“Columbus is my favorite town,” Russ Hunt said. “Really. The general manager of the Trade Center, Larry Campbell is great. I love the downtown area.”

Graduating with a degree in theater and film production 11 years ago from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, he went straight to work for his parents. He said he grew up with the show. His older brother, however, opted out of the family business and runs a health food store in northern North Carolina.

With the recent downturn in the economy, he was amazed that Columbus has shown three consecutive years of attendance growth. He said the vendors’ booths have been sold out for months in Columbus.

If you ask the visitors what they like, Hunt said without a doubt the food booths win. In fact, in questionnaires, more food booths are always marked high. Other popular booths are the Christmas ornaments, especially the ones that can be personalized, and jewelry.

Since he’s been with the show for 11 years, he’s noticed regulars who come year after year. He said the ones in his early years would come with their children. He’s noticed that those children, now grown, are coming to the show with their children.

Hunt and his wife, Binh, are expecting their first child on Dec. 2, which makes it difficult for him to be away from home for seven weeks.

Since the last show, in Charleston, is Dec. 3-4, he’s hoping the baby (whose name will be Annabella Thi) will be a few days late so he can be home for her birth.

He loves the show and meeting people, but admits listing to Christmas music non-stop “begins to wear on me.”

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