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Seventh creative Christmas tree ball gown unveiled at Crosslake store

Tradition started in 2016 and Common Goods customers can't wait every year to see what it will look like

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Andrea Martin, left, retail manager at Common Goods in Crosslake, and Faith Swanson, who works at the store, stand next to the 2022 Christmas tree ball gown they created and that was unveiled Nov. 11, 2022, at the store.
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CROSSLAKE — The three Common Goods thrift stores in the lakes area each hosted a Christmas Showcase earlier this month as a kickoff to shop for Christmas items and see the stores’ seasonal displays.

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Andrea Martin and Faith Swanson created this angel Christmas tree ball gown at Common Goods in Crosslake in 2020 to inspire hope during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Those who shop at the Crosslake store - both residents and out-of-town visitors - keep the mid-November date on their calendars every year - not just to shop, but to see the unveiling of the annual Christmas tree ball gown.

“It’s been really fun because the people enjoy it,” said Andrea Martin, retail manager of Common Goods in Crosslake. “People get excited.

“We actually have people asking, ‘When is it going to be there,’ and people come to show it,” she said.

They’ll ask: “What’s it going to look like this year?” “When can we see the ball gown?” “I’m going out of town - I will miss it this year, but I’ll follow you on social media.”

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This year’s ball gown was unveiled Friday, Nov. 11, in the center of the store. It has a prominent spot on a small stage, lit by strings of lights on white curtains with Christmas ornaments hanging from the ceiling.

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This year's Christmas tree ball gown at Crosslake's Common Goods thrift store was unveiled Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, during the Christmas Showcase held at all three area stores, including those in Crosby and Baxter.
Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

The idea originated in 2015, when Common Goods opened in Crosslake.

“That fall, one of my staff members (Faith Swanson) showed me some pictures she had found online of a Christmas tree ball gown. And she said, ‘Oh, that’d be cool if we did something like that here,’” Martin said. “We were determined to make it happen for the next Christmas.”

So the next summer, Martin bought a mannequin at a garage sale, and she and Swanson went to work.

“She’s very artistic and she always has that creative eye,” Martin said of Swanson. “It was kind of our little baby.”

We do it because we love it. We do it for fun. It’s had such a positive, good reaction. It’s like our Christmas card to Crosslake.
Andrea Martin

A Christmas tree had been donated to Common Goods, so Martin and Swanson made the skirt out of pine boughs and chicken wire. They started storing donated items they thought would be fun to use on the mannequin.

“It’s just kind of a fun twist on the traditional tree,” Martin said.

In 2016, they unveiled their first Christmas tree ball gown with poinsettias.

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In 2017, the Christmas tree ball gown at Common Goods in Crosslake sported a northwoods theme with Paul Bunyan plaid.
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“We named it Holly, and so that’s how it was born,” Martin said. “And so then every year after that we’ve tried to change it up.”

In 2017, they created a northwoods ball gown with teddy bears and Paul Bunyan plaid in a window display. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, they believed people needed hope so they created an angel gown with white feathers. They called it the Angel of Hope.

Last year, the gown was a peacock theme, thanks to a bunch of peacock feathers and blue items that were donated that summer. They kept stashing other donated feathers and big, blue Christmas balls that came to the store.

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The 2021 Christmas ball gown at Common Goods in Crosslake featured blue items and peacock feathers that were donated to the store through the year.
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“It’s built off of things as they come in,” Martin said. “We don’t plan it ahead of time. But as things get donated, that’s how we make our tree.”

This year’s dress idea originated a year ago when someone donated a Christmas tree decorating set. The six boxes were full of burgundy, gold and glitter items, poinsettias, ribbons and both big and small ball ornaments.

“I opened the box and said, ‘Faith, this is the dress next year.’ And Faith said, ‘I was going to tell you that this is the dress for next year.’ So we’ve been storing it for almost a year just waiting to use it for the dress,” Martin said.

People can see the seventh rendition of the Christmas tree ball gown through New Year’s at the Crosslake Common Goods store.

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This is one of the seven Christmas tree ball gowns created at Crosslake's Common Goods thrift store since 2017.
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A past year's Christmas tree ball gown at Common Goods in Crosslake.
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“We do it because we love it. We do it for fun,” Martin said. “It’s had such a positive, good reaction. It’s like our Christmas card to Crosslake.”

This year, the newest Common Goods store, in Crosby, also features a Christmas tree ball gown.

Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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