Groups of smiling shoppers browsed for crafty and creative gifts at four churches and three other locations Saturday during the annual Lombard Christmas Mart.
"This is a real happy crowd, a happy group of people who come in," said Carol Anderson, one of the organizers of the mart at St. John's Lutheran Church. "Everyone enjoys seeing what's new."
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A few hundred shoppers, the majority of them women, walked along Maple Street just west of Main Street near downtown Lombard browsing for Christmas gifts and pausing for a meal of sloppy joe's or split pea soup.
Stephanie Hendron of Villa Park came with her family to the Christmas Mart and made her first stop at First Church of Lombard, where she browsed displays of knitted hats, ornaments and Advent calendars.
"We like going to craft shows," Hendron said.
Craft sales at several Lombard churches have been an early November tradition for decades, but Anderson said this is the third year the sales have been planned to occur as one simultaneous event.
"This is our first time coming to this (event). We like it," said shopper Michelle Straus of Lombard, who stopped by the mart with her husband in search of a housewarming gift. "They have some cute stuff."
Aside from giving an early jump on the search for Christmas gifts, the mart generated funds for several causes. At St. John's, some items were sold by private vendors, but quilts and other goods made by church members were sold for charity, including Hurricane Sandy relief efforts through Lutheran Church Charities.
"The emphasis is on the hurricane victims," Anderson said. "I think everyone's heart is there, and yet, what can you do?"