ChristmasVille in Rock Hill, South Carolina

Story by guest blogger Terri Harper. Photos Copyright © Terri Harper.

SANTA ARRIVED IN ChristmasVille at Glencairn Garden, Rock Hill, South Carolina on an adorable modern-day sleigh loaded with presents. It was a perfect southern December day for children to hear A Story With Santa in the Garden.

Santa sat on the porch of the old Bigger House located in the garden and read Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer to an attentive crowd of youngsters and parents.

Glencairn Garden

Glencairn Garden

Santa's sleigh

Santa's sleigh

After the story, everyone lined up and eagerly awaited the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap and spill their hearts’ desires. While waiting in line, parents and their excited children were served hot chocolate and sugar cookies as they enjoyed the cheery decorated front porch.

Delightful Chatty Evergreen intrigued all wearing her tree costume, decorated with lights and ornaments. Being true to her name she was quite talkative, which helped pass the time spent waiting in line.

Chatty Evergreen and Santa

Left: Chatty Evergreen
Right: Santa and his elf on the front porch of the Bigger House

Intentionally, there was not a professional photographer present, which gave local families the opportunity to take photos of their children with Santa using their own cameras. Parents were encouraged to take as long as they needed to get the “just right” photo of their kids on Santa’s lap.

After visiting Santa, the children went to the patio where the American Red Cross had a table set up for Holiday Mail for Heroes. Children were asked to make Christmas cards for veterans and people serving in the military who will not be home for Christmas. To see how much thought and effort the children put into their drawings and messages endeared the heart.

Holiday Mail For Heroes, Rock Hill, SC American Red Cross

Children making Christmas cards for Holiday Mail For Heroes

Christmas Cards for Heroes

The cards made by local children for veterans and
South Carolinian military who won't be home for Christmas

From Glencairn Garden I traveled a few blocks to Main Street, ChristmasVille’s epicenter. Since its inception six years ago, ChristmasVille has been a fun-filled, event-packed dazzling festival complemented by Santas and gnomes from the renowned illustrator, Vernon Grant.

The free event is sponsored by the city of Rock Hill and has won Best Christmas Event in South Carolina for the past four years.

For four days during ChristmasVille, Main Street is filled with merriment. The light poles proudly display flags of Vernon Grant’s whimsical Santas.

Light poles festooned with Vernon Grant Santa flags

Light poles festooned with Vernon Grant Santa flags

Along Main Street there are exhibits, artisans, The Grinch, a polar bear, Santa, Dickens characters, and plenty of gnomes. Also, rides for children, a village of inflatable bounce houses, a Ferris wheel, a trolley, and even a horse-drawn carriage. They have it all at ChristmasVille!

On center stage, local performing arts groups provide entertainment all day throughout the festival. I arrived late in the day and enjoyed seeing the last performance while having a pleasant conversation with an on-duty police officer.

Youngsters performing on stage beneath the Ferris wheel

Youngsters performing on stage beneath the Ferris wheel

Wandering into the Center for the Arts, I was enchanted with Vernon Grant’s Santas and fantasy gnomes, and the keenly imaginative gingerbread houses.

Vernon Grant Christmas gnomes

The Vernon Grant Christmas gnomes that were either side of Santa
in a ChristmasVille window display (see feature photo for full scene)

The gingerbread houses, made by professional chefs, amateurs and youth, were entered in a People’s Choice Contest.

My favorite gingerbread house was the Santa Snowman Repair Shop. Broken snowmen wait in the yard for their turn to enter the repair shop that was “Now Serving #8.” Penguins make up the repair crew. Piles of snowballs in the yard are on hand to repair their bodies.

The back of the building is an open-air repair shop (of course, so they won’t melt!). For the repair jobs there’s a bucket of arms, a box of carrots marked “Noses,” a box of magical hats, and stacks of scarves. This gingerbread house and all its detail captivated me. Not surprising it won first place.

Santa Snowman Repair Shop

Santa Snowman Repair Shop

Log cabin gingerbread house

My affinity to cabins helped me choose my
second favorite gingerbread house: the log cabin

Vernon Grant (1902–1990) created Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal characters, Snap!, Crackle! and Pop! A whimsical illustrator who created many characters for children’s book, illustrated thousands of advertisements and over 250 magazine covers, Grant was a long-time resident and outstanding citizen of Rock Hill until his death at age 88.

Grant’s favorite character to draw was Santa. His famous Santa illustrations lined the walls of the art center.

Vernon Grant prints - Left: "Breakfast With Santa"
Right: "Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"

Vernon Grant Christmas Ornament Collection

Part of the Vernon Grant Christmas Ornament Collection.
Each has an illustration and history along with a gold-plated ornament.

In the window of the gallery was a Christmas tree adorned with gnomes’ faces created by local third graders, led by their art teacher. Grant’s first fame was with his doodles of gnomes and they are well represented at ChristmasVille.

There's No Face Like Gnome!

"There's No Face Like Gnome!" - ornaments inspired by the work of Vernon Grant,
made by Mount Gallant Elementary Third Graders

Walking along Main Street that evening, I was treated to hear carolers (members of local performing arts groups) who were dressed as Dickens characters.

ChristmasVille sets the heart aglow. I’ll remember this delightful day for a long time.

The lights of ChristmasVille

The lights of ChristmasVille




Glencairn Garden, Rock Hill, South Carolina

Vernon Grant (1902–1990)

Terri Harper

Terri Harper


Terri Harper lives in South Carolina with her six feline companions. She’s a free-spirited explorer, often traveling solo without an itinerary. She’s been to 49 states on personal road trips and out of the country a handful of times. Her aspiration is to camp in all of America’s National Parks and visit Hawaii.



  1. A wonderful place to celebrate the Christmas season! I think the children’s gnomes and cards were great!
    Thanks for the fun article!

    • Thank you, Betsy! It was a very fun day! ChristmasVille is special.
      The gnomes and cards were my favorites too. It is all about the kids.

  2. Ohmyword, Terri, what a great article – I want a ChristmasVille in my town; this is delightful!! So glad to “see” you here!

    • Thanks Karen! I had a blast at ChristmasVille! It’s thrilling to be here sharing a piece of it with others! Good to see you here too! Merry Christmas!

  3. Wow, what a fantastic article, Terri! I love all the detail and all your photos and captions. I didn’t realize that Vernon Grant designed the ‘Snap, Crackle, and Pop!’ characters; how cool. I didn’t even know Christmasville existed. It’s so lovely how the children make cards for the Holiday for Heroes program.

    So glad to see you publishing your work online and so happy wonderful Milli asked you to write a post for her blog. Merry Christmas 🙂

    • Thank you for all these wonderful compliments Carole Jane! You make me beam!
      Wonderful Milli is responsible for the photo captions and choosing the just right photos for the story. I love writing in detail and shooting photos. (smiles)
      Vernon Grant was an amazing human being, highly respected here where he lived for over 4 decades. We’ve all seen his characters many times and probably not known the illustrator’s name. Who doesn’t love Snap! Crackle! and Pop!?
      I enjoy the children making artwork too.
      It is thrilling that Milli is interested in my travel stories and photographs, she is very talented. It’s been a pure delight to work with her and my great privilege.
      “Wonderful Milli” I like that description of her!

  4. Wow! What a cool Christmas celebration! I love the idea of the snowman repair shop and especially all the spare parts in the back. I question the penguin employees as I consider Christmas a North Pole rather than South Pole holiday, but I suppose penguins would know all about snowmen, LOL.

    Great article! I feel like I was there!

    • Thank you kindly Sue for your compliments!
      I too marveled at the creativity of the snowman repair shop but I didn’t pick up on penguins not living at the North Pole. They don’t even live in the northern hemisphere at all. I am glad you brought that up. It made me think.
      We do see a lot of penguins around at Christmastime. Hallmark did a series of penguin ornaments one year as I recall.
      I like your idea of assuming penguins are qualified to repair snowmen, LOL
      Good to see you here!

  5. Lindsey Smith says:

    Very fun to read about this Christmas fest! Good to see that children were writing letters to our servicemen and women. What a great way for children to give a little something they can feel good about.

    • Thank you Lindsey! The children seemed to feel important and useful when they were asked if they would like to make a card. They put their hearts into their creations.

  6. I live in Lake Wylie, SC,–just 20 minutes away from Rock Hill, SC, and have never been to ChristmasVille since it’s inception four years ago. After reading Terri’s wonderful article and seeing the fantastic pictures, I’m marking my calendar for next year’s event! Thanks so much, Terri, for even educating us local folks on such a fantastic event!!

    • Thank you Lisa, good to see you here!
      A confession, I live closer to ChristmasVille (a few miles in fact) than you and this was the first year that I attended.
      I was stunned at how awesome it is and sorry that I’d missed it in past years.
      It’s not just the best Christmas event in SC, it has been voted the Best Event in South Carolina for four years! Those of us who have been to events in Charleston know what kind of competition there is for Best Event in our state. Impresses me.
      See you at ChristmasVille next year!

  7. Caroline Krueger says:

    Hello, Terri,

    What a treat to read your delightful story, illustrated with wonderful pictures! Thanks for sharing with me. This was a very nice “Christmas card.” It should entice folks to come to Rock Hill on their travels.

    I think you’ll be invited often to be a guest writer and then a staff writer. You will enjoy this, and your readers will, too. I didn’t get to take in any of ChristmasVille this year (really enjoyed it when Miller played Tiny Tim one year!) maybe two years ago. I visited vicariously through your article. Thanks for sharing it with me!

    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year and will get to go to Charleston, my favorite place in the world!


    • Caroline, you flatter and compliment me very much, thank you.
      I had FUN at ChristmasVille, shooting photos and writing the story. It was just delightful!
      Isn’t it wonderful when our kids and grandkids are participating in wonderful events like ChristmasVille? I know you enjoyed Miller as Tiny Tim- I wish I’d been there that year!
      Charleston is on the slate for Christmas week so looks like I’ll be there! It is a neat place, huh?
      Wonderful Christmas to you and Happy New Year!
      Thank you for commenting, it means a lot to me.

  8. What a FUN festival! No wonder it was voted best! I had no idea who Vernon Grant was until you showed the Santa’s on the wall….I remember those! He embodied my personal vision of Santa! I’m going to have to look up his work now….

    Thanks for a terrific post, pictures and read! Have a GREAT day!

    • Ah Ann, you make me smile in a big way!
      Like you, it brought back wonderful memories to see Vernon Grant’s funny Santas and precious gnomes!
      I love his characters and thrilled that you do too!
      If you do look him up, you’ll find he is the illustrator of many characters we all know, including Mother Goose and many more. His portfolio is extensive.
      Thank you!

      • Ann, forgot to mention that the gallery walls were lined with oh, probably 50 or so different Vernon Grant Santas. They’re all different and all have the most playful, happy expressions!

  9. Jennifer Graves says:

    What a great article! I had thought about going to Christmasville this year but did not get a chance to go. After reading your article I know it is a must for me to go next year. Thank you for letting us know about the specific events that go on. The pictures were great too!

    • Thank you Jennifer!
      Like you ChristmasVille is on my list for next year. I enjoyed the gallery with Vernon Grant’s work so much that I went back after ChristmasVille! His Santas and gnomes will be on display through the holiday season.
      I know you would LOVE the gingerbread houses too! They are gone now, but the Santas and gnomes are there. I appreciate your comments, thanks!

  10. Hello, Terri!
    Thanks for this fantastic peek into ChristmasVille. What a wonderful and varied way to celebrate the season. I adored the photos of the gingerbread houses (how creative they were!) and Vernon Grant’s art. As others have said in the comments, I now want to learn more about him and his artwork as there’s something particularly wonderful about his Santas.
    I look forward to reading more of you here on Milliver’s! 🙂

    • Thank you Lisa! It’s such a compliment when someone is inspired to learn more about the subject because of something you wrote. Makes me sing and dance!
      Those delightful Santas did grab and hold my attention. So much so that I’ve put taped my brochures to the wall like Christmas decorations! Makes me smile to see them! Thrilled that you are here, thank you for reading and commenting!

  11. Lori Hoffman says:

    Christmasville starts the season off right in Rock Hill and Terri, you have done a wonderful job capturing some of the magical parts that make it so unique. Yes, my Miller was Tiny Tim and he and I both starred in a Christmas Play performed at the Getty’s Center several years ago. Only you could make words express this excitement of the event. Kudos!

    • Lori, you said it better than I could have! You’re so right, it is very special, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I only captured a small piece of its grandeur.
      With good reason, I know you were proud to be a part of it and that Miller was too.
      It IS a wonderful event. The city of Rock Hill and all the staff and volunteers (over 350 people by the way) that I talked to put their heart and soul into ChristmasVille and the Come See Me festival in the spring. ChristmasVille is far above average!
      Thank you for reading and commenting…I hope to see you and the kids performing in one of the many events at ChristmasVille next year!

  12. A great article. I can’t wait to check out some of these events I missed next year.

    • Thank you Katie!

      I am like you, there are so many wonderful events at ChristmasVille, we can’t get them all in!

      I like that the concentration is on the performing arts and of course the marvelous Vernon Grant art.

      I look forward to hearing your daughter carol again next year!

  13. Johnny says:


    It was great to read your article. From the prospective of a blind man reading this with a screen reader, the story was great as if I were there in person. You have a awesome talent for writing travel stories. Excellent job on Christmasville!!! Keep up the great work, look forward to reading you again. Can’t wait!!!

    Johnny in SC

  14. Thank you very much Johnny for your kind and thoughtful compliments! I’ll be happy to let you know when I write again. I love to travel and love to write about my adventures.

  15. Oh, so many photo delights and this sounds lovely! Even if Santa’s sleigh doesn’t, Santa looks very authentic 😉
    Thank you so much for sharing with us *wishing she was a kid again*

    • Thank you Estrella! Things like this make me wish I were a kid again too! It was absolutely delightful to experience this event. Thanks for dropping by.