Band Fundraiser 1

Scenes from Saturday nights State 3A football champion between Linganore and Northwestern at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

Urbana High School’s halls were decked for Christmas on Saturday, as the school’s marching band turned the cafeteria and gym into the North Pole for its annual Winter Wonderland holiday market.

The pop-up event had a little bit of everything, with nearly 50 vendors selling homemade Christmas gifts, along with pictures with Santa, Christmas stories read to kids and perhaps the event’s most iconic feature: shopping with “Santa’s elves” (otherwise known as the marching band members), who helped younger kids find the perfect gifts for their loved ones.

Kristen Braun, who described herself as a “seventh-year band parent,” was in charge of overseeing the elf shopping event, tucked away in the school’s cafeteria. She said the annual holiday shop is one of the biggest fundraisers for the marching band.

Braun said after a necessary pause in 2020, the band and volunteering parents are excited to get the event going again.

“We’re super happy to be back this year,” she said. “We’ve been doing this for a really long time, long before I was a band parent ... The band kids love to come out and help the kids shop. It’s just a lot of fun.”

Braun said the team buying gifts for children’s gift shop start preparing for each year’s shop on the day after Christmas each year to make sure they have some high-quality gifts on display.

“I think people come back because we have some good-quality gifts,” she said. “It’s not like you would normally think when your kid is going to something like this, where you get a plastic ring for Mom. We have some really good stuff, and people keep coming back because they know their kids are having fun.”

While Braun spoke, about a dozen band students dressed as elves helped younger kids pick out gifts that seemed to fit the “higher quality” standard Braun mentioned; the little shoppers were able to find board games, stuffed animals and other holiday treats for everyone on their list. There was even a section for pets.

Outside of the cafeteria in the gym, dozens of vendors gathered to sell their wares. Jessica Miltenberger has been organizing the vendor portion for the past five years, as a way of helping the marching band out. A former band parent, she said she volunteered to take over that role since she is a vendor herself, working as a Scentsy consultant.

“When I came on board, I said, ‘This is a good opportunity to raise money for the marching band with vendor tables,’” saying the focus in prior years had largely been on the gift shop. Since vendors have to pay a fee for their space, Miltenberger said it could be a boon for the marching band.

Since taking over, she said the amount of vendors with booths at the market has steadily grown, which she said is largely due to advertising on Facebook.

“I don’t know if people realize the cost associated with marching band and the cost in entering into competitions,” she said. “This event is super important because it raises so many funds for these kids.”

Many of the vendors were artists and crafters, but some of those vendors — namely a group of eighth graders from Urbana Middle School — were donating the money made from their art to a good cause.

Gabriella Saulsbury, Sophia Hernandez and Katherine Liebergot are all members of a club that meets Thursday to create art, which they then sell at school concerts and events like Saturday’s. All of the money then gets donated to Heartly House and to local animal rescues.

Hernandez said she loves being able to use her art as both an emotional outlet and as a way to raise money for charity.

“Back in sixth grade, the club was created, and since COVID happened we weren’t able to do it in seventh,” she said. “It’s for an important cause ... and I really love art, it’s a great way to express my feelings.”

The group said their club has grown to 40 members, all creating art to raise money.

Follow Patrick Kernan on Twitter: @PatKernan

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