Christmas Village Festival celebrates 35 years at the BJCC
The Dees family started the Christmas Village Festival in 1981 with 70 booths in the South Hall of the BJCC. Today, the show has grown into one of Birmingham’s largest consumer shows featuring 750 booths and welcoming approximately 85,000 shoppers over nearly a week at the BJCC.
After an exclusive VIP ticket-only day on Wednesday, the Christmas Village Festival opens to the public Thursday and runs through Sunday. Tickets are $12 at the door or at christmasvillagefestival.com.
Founder Wayne Dees was an entrepreneur at heart and, with a group of business partners, came up with the idea to sell Christmas gifts in a one-stop-shopping experience. Over more than three decades, Dees, with his wife, Bess, and daughters Wendy and Lisa, turned Christmas Village Festival into a thriving, full-time business based in Trussville.
With three full-time employees and 55 part time during the show, the trade show has become a lasting career for daughters Lisa Fullilove and Wendy Melvin after the passing of their parents. The girls started out taking tickets at the door as kids. Back then, the show only used part of the exhibit space. Today, it utilizes every inch of the 220,000 square feet of exhibition hall space available.
The milestone reached by the Christmas Village Festival is also celebrated by the BJCC, said Executive Director Tad Snider.
“It is a thrill to see a locally owned business grow to such a level that it now attracts international vendors and shoppers from around the country,” Snider said. “The BJCC is proud to provide our top-notch facility as home for the Christmas Village Festival for the last 35 years and hope for many more.”
Vendors come from 26 states and Israel. Visitors come from all over Alabama, Georgia and Florida, Texas, California, New Mexico and Montana.
Several charities benefit from the show, with booths offered alongside commercial vendors.
Always the first weekend of November, the Christmas Village Festival brings together families and friends who often begin their holiday shopping at the show. Vendors offer a variety of gift ideas, including arts, crafts, clothing, food and jewelry. Many shoppers make a weekend trip out of Christmas Village and stay at the Sheraton Birmingham or Westin Birmingham, which are part of the BJCC complex and located just across the street from the Exhibit Halls. Shoppers also have many restaurant choices at the adjacent Uptown District at the BJCC.
Cindy Fisher Crawford
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