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A Country Christmas 

by Susan Hamilton & r & If you want to go somewhere besides Grandma's house this holiday weekend, why not ring in the season at Dayton's Silver Bells Christmas event? The two-and-a-half-hour drive southwest of Spokane will get you out into the countryside to experience a small town winter holiday celebration.

"It's a complete experience that's authentic and personal," says Jennie Dickinson, executive director of Dayton's Chamber of Commerce. "The whole community participates in decorating all the storefronts on Main Street, the street lights and the park."

The annual event features historic buildings and shopping on Main Street that's reminiscent of yesteryear juxtaposed with galleries showing contemporary artwork and tasting rooms offering Columbia Valley wines and microbrews. A winter fireworks display punctuates the celebrations Friday night

What can you expect at this year's festivities? It all starts Friday morning with shopping on Dayton's classic Main Street. Dingle's of Dayton has presided on Main Street since 1920. The quintessential general store's motto is "If you don't find it at Dingle's, you don't need it." A few doors down, Mrs. Mc's Antiques features local antiques and collectibles. The owner, a second-generation antique dealer, specializes in Baileysburg furniture, vintage clothing and jewelry. You wouldn't expect to find a national award-winning art gallery in a small town, but Wenaha Gallery has flourished on Dayton's Main Street for 12 years. This weekend, artist Stephen Lyman's work will be shown at Wenaha alongside his wife Andrea's line of jewelry and gifts, as well as watercolors from local artists.

A variety of new stores on Main Street add to the holiday festivities. The Village Shoppes' d & eacute;cor recreate Dayton at the turn of the century. Twenty-six crafters and artisans offer items, such as furniture, stained glass, reproduction antique toys and old-fashioned candy. The Country Cupboard is a refurbished country store with a bakery and deli. Don't leave without trying a Long John maple bar or a cream-filled cupcake. Wild Berries Caf & eacute; is having an open house Friday evening with cherries jubilee and a harpist.

But the shopping and feasting doesn't stop at Main Street. A few blocks away, the Dayton Depot is dressed in its holiday best for a Christmas Market. And it has plenty to be proud of. Built in 1881, it's the oldest existing passenger railroad station in the state. Friday and Saturday afternoons, you'll find Santa next to the pot-bellied stove in the depot lobby, just waiting for you to get that special photo. Hayrides start in front of the depot in the afternoons and evenings.

Dayton's love affair with the past is no more evident than at the Boldman House, the latest restoration of the town's 117 historic buildings. The turn-of-the-century home is open for tours this weekend, exhibiting items from a vintage Victrola to a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and gifts from the 1900s.

At 7 pm on Friday, a fireworks display will fill the skies next to the oldest working courthouse in the state. "You stand on the courthouse lawn and the fireworks twist and whirl right above you," Dickinson says.

For those who like to do a little beverage tasting, Skye Book and Brew on Main Street offers its own hand-crafted brews, ranging from oatmeal stout to root beer. Family-style dining at the brewery/caf & eacute;/bookstore features pizza and fresh baked pot pies, among the many offerings. Patit Creek Cellars is hosting a barrel tasting of its newest release with artisan cheeses from the local fromagerie on Friday and Saturday afternoons.

Dayton's Christmas Kickoff is Friday-Saturday, Nov. 25-26, from 9 am-9 pm. Call 800-882-6299 or see Dayton is located on SR 12, east of Pasco via SR 124.

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