Penns Valley

‘Friendly faces’: Merry Millheim kicks holidays into high gear

Claudia and Eric Sarnow haven’t been home for the holidays in Penns Valley for eight years.

This year, the owners of The Hummingbird Room — a restaurant in Spring Mills that closed eight years ago — are back in the area to spend the season with family and friends, and were called the guests of honor during the annual Merry Millheim celebration that started Friday night.

“We used to go there and love it,” Patty Ewanow, a Millheim resident who visited the event, said of the restaurant.

“When it closed it was a shame for the residents, but we’re glad they’re back briefly so we can try their samples and buy some of our favorites from them this year.”

Eric Sarnow is now a traveling chef.

He and his wife set up a stand in the back of the Bremen Town Ballroom on East Main Street along with 17 other local vendors. They sold their lauded jams, sauces, breads, pastries and other foods.

“We’re glad to be back to an area we’re familiar with and see a lot of those friendly faces,” Claudia Sarnow said.

Merry Millheim is an annual tradition in the borough that was started three years ago.

Its mission is to bring businesses together to help promote the borough during the holidays, said Karl Leitzel, owner of The Green Drake Gallery and member of the Millheim Business Community.

On Friday, Leitzel’s gallery featured harpist Anne Sullivan and cellist Kim Cook.

On Saturday, his gallery also will have a craft sale and cookie swap and sale, the proceeds of which will help benefit the East Penns Valley Library, which closed earlier in the year but reopened with the help of volunteers.

Organizer Martha Hoffman said the bad weather put a freeze on the public flow that would normally visit the borough, but that she expects it to get a little busier by Saturday afternoon. Annually, Merry Millheim attracts about 300 guests, she said.

Hoffman, owner of IngleBean Coffee House, was busy Friday night preparing cut-out cookies for her events on Saturday.

Her café will host cookie decorating for kids and a children’s storytime session with library volunteers.

This is the first year Merry Millheim will help benefit a local organization.

“We’re all about community, and giving back is part of that,” Hoffman said.

Josh and Erin McCracken are the owners of the Bremen Town Ballroom. The first year the borough holiday event began, its “craft show was the catalyst to the event,” Erin McCracken said.

“It’s just grown over the years,” Josh McCracken said. “I guess the first year you’re not sure what to expect, and now it’s become a tradition and nice community event to help give people a reason to come here.”

Back at the Handmade Holiday Market in the ballroom, Millheim resident Simon Leach was getting his hands dirty with pottery by making functional pitchers, mugs and other items.

Leach, the grandson of Bernard Howell Leach, said the hobby runs in his family and that he has been making a living off it since 1979.

“It’s the kind of visual craft where people can physically see how it’s made and how it works right in front of their eyes,” Leach said.

Leach said he uses a wheel design used by his father and grandfather that dates back to 1940s. While it’s a popular mechanism in England, where he is from originally, it’s rare to see in the U.S.

About two years ago, an Amish man from Allensville helped make a special wheel for him, Leach said.

“I love this craft, and I’m here to sell and to talk to people about the beauty of clay,” Leach said. “On top of that, it’s a nice holiday gift.”

Merry Millheim will continue 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.

Most other area business will participate in the event with arts and crafts, sales, spa services, live entertainment, refreshments and more.