Fran Mihalek kicked off her shopping spree with spirit, because she expected to find small treasures at the Centre County Historical Society’s 12th annual Stocking Stuffer Preview Party.
Mihalek, of Harris Township, has shopped at the stocking stuffer since its inception and does not come away empty handed. One year she bought a three-foot wood chest, originally made to be a fireplace firebox. She also always looks for handcrafted glass and Gaffron’s Sunrise Bakery fruit cake.
The new gem she found at the preview party this year was a mystery novel, “Antiques to Die For,” by P.L. Hartman, a State College resident.
“I’ll share some of the fruit cake with friends, but the book is for me first,” Mihalek said.
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The preview party drew 65 people Thursday evening, and CCHS Executive Director Mary Sorensen expects about 500 more people to shop at the mansion Friday and Saturday. About 60 local artisans sell handmade goods for the stocking stuffer each year, and 25 percent of proceeds benefit the CCHS.
Sorensen said the three-day stocking stuffer usually raises about $12,000, making it the society’s largest annual fundraiser.
“It’s wonderful because we see so many familiar faces, but we also see new faces that want to shop for their friends and families and support the Centre County Historical Society and local artisans at the same time,” Sorensen said.
Eva Pendleton, of Halfmoon Township, was a new face to the stocking stuffer last year and returned for holiday shopping.
The first thing she put in her basket to buy, however, was a gift for herself.
“I saw it, and I fell in love with it,” Pendleton said as she held up a matching Valleypurl red hat and scarf. “It’s gorgeous, just so gorgeous.”
Mike Husband, of Walker Township, said he and his wife, CCHS volunteer Judy Heberling, shop at the stocking stuffer each year.
“It’s special to be here, because we like to tell people the mansion is the birthplace of Penn State, because it is,” Husband said. “The ironmaster of the mansion, James Irvin, donated the land for a campus here. It all started here.”
“It was also the first iron furnace in this area and the first industry here in 1791,” Sorensen added.
Husband said the music played by Ancient Echoes, a local band that performed songs dating back to the 15th century, created a fitting atmosphere in the historical mansion.
“I’ve been a folk music fan for many, many years, and I play a five-string banjo, so I’m really into listening to this music, which is wonderful to hear in the mansion” Husband said. “I’m shopping, too, for four grandchildren, all of them fairly arts and crafts oriented, so this is a wonderful place to shop for artistic things, handmade items and fabrics. I’m very much in my element shopping, listening to wonderful music and being with great people.”
The mansion will be open for more stocking stuffers from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is $5.