By Wendi Reardon Price
Clarkston News Staff Writer
INDEPENDENCE TWP. — Chelsea O’Brien doesn’t mind her thoughts have been filled with visions of sugar plums as the Clarkston Family Farm prepares for their annual Christmas at the Farm event on Saturday, December 2, 3-6 p.m.
“It’s hands down my favorite event we do,” said O’Brien, founder and executive director of the farm. “It has grown every year. Each year it’s just pure joy, magic and fun. There are only two rules at the farm – have fun and be safe. These Family Fun Days are triple underscore fun. They are so much fun for the community. It’s something anyone in the community can come and enjoy.”
“It’s magical,” said Meghan McGinn, who has been going to the farm since Maverick, her four-year-old son was one-year-old, and is coordinator for the CFF community garden. “The whole farm is lit up with beautiful lights. There is literally happiness all around. I always feel that energy when I go to the farm, but Christmas is just a little bit extra special. It’s so great to take Maverick to see Santa at a place we love so much. Everybody is happy and cheerful. The farm looks amazing. It’s a special holiday treat we have done for three years.”
The annual free event has a little something for everyone. Some of the activities include visiting with mini-horse reindeer, Little Man the donkey, goats, piglets, bunnies and chickens, crafts, caroling, hayrides, shopping and of course a visit with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.
“Each year we try to keep things fresh and interesting,” O’Brien said. “Because we have been hard at work raising money for our Pathways to Possibilities project you will be able to see some of the fruits of our labor. The pavilion is up and winterized. Our outdoor cooking lab has also been improved and winterized. We have completed our new grazing pasture and entrance.”
It’s the entrance where Christmas at the Farm begins through Candy Cane Lane, which wheelchair and stroller accessible.
“Then, come to our large welcome center we built which is at the front end of our grazing pasture, where the reindeer run will be this year,” O’Brien said. “We will have our horses as reindeer. New this year will be baby pigs, goats, and we have a donkey friend. You will be able to interact with new furry and fluffy friends at the farm this year.”
The pavilion becomes Kris Kringle Market where artisans and vendors will be located for an opportunity to purchase unique gifts, crafts and food.
The hoop house is being transformed into Santa’s Workshop where there will be a lot of fun activities. Caroling will be in the hoop house where students and professional singers will lead the group for everyone to join in to sing. Grandmother Christmas will also make a visit and will have story time. She will also be doing a gingerbread craft with the kids.
If there is a need for a larger gingerbread, look towards the outdoor cooking lab which will be turned into a gingerbread house. The cooking lab will have s’mores, hot dogs, caramel corn and more.
“We will have food trucks, and we will have some food vendors so come hungry because you can get dinner at the farm this year,” O’Brien said.
The art barn becomes the North Pole where Santa and Mrs. Claus will be located. Buddy the Elf is also visiting and will play What’s Your Favorite Color. The Grinch is also making an appearance and will partake in a snowball fight with kids of all ages.
“There are lots of new and fun things we have for this year,” O’Brien said.
She does ask families to register for the event so they have a count of how many are coming. Registration is at https://clarkstonfamilyfarm.regfox.com/christmas-at-the-farm-2023.
“It’s a free event. But we have to have a clear idea of how many are coming and then have email addresses for where to park, what to expect and a welcome to Christmas at the Farm event,” she added.
Clarkston Family Farm is located at 6800 Hubbard Road.
“This is our last big gift for the community for the year before we wind down for winter. It’s just pure magic. Am I excited? Oh, yes, I am. It’s been an amazing 2023,” O’Brien said.
She shared when families register they can also help out with a gift Clarkston Family Farm has down the last few years – the Holiday Harvest Gift Baskets.
“Every year we do this simultaneously with Christmas at the Farm,” O’Brien said. “It’s the spirit of Christmas. It’s the reason for the season. It’s also something I feel so strongly about as a teacher to instill in the young people that sense of generosity, appreciation, that heart of service.”
Clarkston Family Farm receives information from churches, schools and Clarkston Area Youth Assistance about families who are in need.
“Right now we have 100 families who could use a little extra love and support around the holidays,” O’Brien said, adding right now their goal is to provide baskets to at least 50 families. Last year they had 72 families.
“The baskets are filled with beautiful locally sourced meats, cheeses, breads, fresh produce, honey and syrup,” O’Brien shared. “This is the highest level of local produce you are going to get. Then, you add fun stuff. If it’s a family with younger children it’s art supplies, story books, little toys. Bath and body products like soaps and lotions. It’s a harvest basket so it’s a lot of really beautiful food and things for the home. Again it’s not just supporting local families in need, but it is sourcing from local farmers so it’s supporting your local farmers.”
She added with inflation and everything going on in the economy it’s hard to buy just basic groceries.
“It’s groceries then you throw in some gift certificates to local restaurants,” O’Brien said. “It’s a basket of joy and hope. It doesn’t solve a lot of problems, but it brings a smile to a lot of people’s face. It’s a surprise. They don’t know they are getting a basket.”
O’Brien and the Clarkston Family Farm fleet of elves deliver the baskets on December 15.
“It’s a fun day to see the surprise, the smiles. Some people start crying. They are just so happy to be seen and cared for,” she said.
Individuals and businesses may donate money, gift cards or items. O’Brien shared in the past Essence on Main has donated loaves of bread, Brioni Cafe and Deli has donated gift cards and Ace Hardware has donated bath and body products.
For more information to donate, visit www.clarkstonfamilyfarm .com.
PHOTO: Santa Claus arrives at the Clarkston Family Farm for the 2022 Christmas at the Farm event. File photo: Wendi Reardon Price