Photos courtesy of Soks Martz | The confectionary creations of Chelle “The Gingerbread Lady” Roberts, featured artist of this year’s Christmas in the Country.

Photos courtesy of Soks Martz | The confectionary creations of Chelle “The Gingerbread Lady” Roberts, featured artist of this year’s Christmas in the Country.

Christmas in the Country returns to Bainbridge homes, farms, studios

Christmas in the Country, a traditional tour offering a bounty of locally made arts, crafts and goodies in homes, farms and studios across Bainbridge, is a grassroots, homespun approach to celebrating the holidays on the island. A chance to gather family and friends to engage in festive fun while shopping for unique handmade gifts.

And it’s back.

This year’s tour — the 26th — will feature seven locations, with about 75 artists and vendors spread between them, open for self-paced browsing from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7, as well as 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8.

There is no charge for admission.

Refreshments will be available, as well as live music to enjoy, a photo opportunity with Santa himself, and free pony rides, too.

Visit www.christmasin for a complete list of locations and participants as well as a map, driving directions and more.

From a comparatively simple start back in 1993, Christmas in the Country has since grown to become a staple wintertime event of the island’s cultural calendar.

According to event officials, “Most all of the venues [in 1993] were historic, some dating back to the 1870s through about the 1930s.

“Relating the stories of the old mill while entering the homes and buildings that played a significant role in that history, visitors experienced ‘a Dickens of a Christmas,’ a bit of Christmases past during the present.

“Part of the charm of the event is meeting people whose ancestors contributed in significant ways to Bainbridge Island, many whose memory is honored as names of our roads. The country roads themselves, some old and worn from travel, are beautifully tree-lined, winding and hilly adding a vicarious ambience of the experience of a Christmas trip to Grandma’s house or the anticipation of fellowship with friends.”

In keeping with the spirit of sublimely simple homestyle feels, this year’s featured artist Chelle “The Gingerbread Lady” Roberts will be serving up the sweets: treats made using a traditional German Christmas cookie recipe, Lebkuchen, passed down in her family for five generations from Vienna pastry makers.

Roberts learned the secret recipe herself when she was just 3, taught by her great-grandmother, and eager sweet-seekers can get their mitts on the fruits of her labor at Hazel Creek Farm (8903 Koura Road), the largest of the tour’s venues.

The 10-acre compound, with charming remodeled 1921 farmhouse, barns, schoolhouses and horse arena, is home to the Hazel Creek Montessori School, named for a small creek that runs through the property. The school director and Ollie Pedersen (landscape architect and native Bainbridge Islander whose family has lived here for something like a century) developed the property that now is “the epitome of country elegance.”

Tour offerings are spread throughout four distinct areas of the property: The schoolhouse, the Hazel House, the Tack Room and the barn, incuding at least two food vendors: Doug Otte (Bavarian bratwurst and homemade soup) and sweet and savory crepes from J’aime les Crepes.

Photos with Santa will be going on, courtesy of Karin Lehotsky, from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to noon Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

At least three artisans boasting very different wares will be gathered at Sweetlife Farm (9631 Summer Hill Lane NE), including Carol Rolph, Laurie Sharp and Greg Mills.

While the tour’s third location, Alchemy Industrial Arts (9392 NE Wardwell Road) is strictly heavy metal.

Alchemy Industrial Arts has been teaching adults and children metal fabrication skills for the past four years. Students of all ages can come and learn blacksmithing, welding and sheet metal forming.

Owner Jeremy Loerch invites the public to come tour the facility and see all the wonderful arts and creations. There will be art pieces that have been created by the students for sale and demonstrations throughout the weekend.

The fourth location is Wacky Nut Farm (10821 NE Wacky Nut Way), which boasts a robust roster of 10 artisans and gourmet goodies by Da, Blinchiki! (Russian crepes, soups and Pirozhki).

In downtown Winslow, Meli Melo Island Vintage Boutique (162 Bjune Drive SE) holds a horde of chic vintage stock worth investigating.

Free pony rides are the main attraction at Countryman Stables (5349 McDonald Ave. NE).

Experience the country in pastoral Eagledale, where Kathy Countryman will offer kids 12 and under free pony rides in a covered arena (on Saturday and Sunday only from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

Although the pony rides are free, event officials say, “Please consider making a contribution to our Adopt-a-Family Fund where we help a local family get through hard times during the holidays.”

“I live on Bainbridge and I am a huge fan of Christmas in the Country, primarily the participation by Kathy Countryman,” said Sheila Hughes of One Reel, a nonprofit organization that produces the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle.

“Christmas in the Country is one of those great community traditions that seem rarer with every passing year,” she added. “It was one of the first things that I enjoyed with my kids when we first moved to the island after 10 years in downtown Seattle. They still both remember their first pony ride at Countryman’s Stables — one of my daughters now rides there regularly and I think it was because of one special Christmas afternoon.”

Finally, a baker’s dozen artisans will gather at Lynwood Commons (4779 Lynwood Center Road, Suite G).

Built and opened in 2002 as a mixed-use facility of apartments and small business, Lynwood Commons is currently under new management and owners. Property manager Jacob Hamilton invites visitors to explore the marvelous work of the guest artists in the community room.

Traditional Russian dumplings for meat lovers and vegans alike, courtesy of Russian Dumplings, will be for sale.

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