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Friendsgiving is a time-honored tradition for folks that live far from or don’t feel close to their families. If you’re craving community, head to the Dakota for a bit of warmth and soulful music (you’ll need to order a Thanksgiving meal in advance).

After the holiday, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra debuts a new work by Sandbox resident artist Viet Cuong. Then on Saturday, throw your support to local businesses, all while finding the perfect gift for someone on your list — or for yourself.

Thanksgiving with Jearlyn Steele & Friends

Don’t have Thanksgiving plans? You’ve got an invite to the Dakota where Jearlyn Steele is joined by sibling Fred Steele playing piano and keyboards, plus Kenyari Jackson on drums, Yonathan Bekure playing bass guitar and Spencer Christiansen on guitar. A legendary member of the Steele family who has toured internationally, Jearlyn Steele also shines as a radio and TV personality, bringing her warmth and humor to audiences, on top of a voice that rings like a bell. Thursday, Nov. 24, 7 p.m. at the Dakota ($25 to $35). More information here.

Photo by Aaron Jay YoungViet Cuong Barber’s Adagio for Strings

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For its post-Thanksgiving concert, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra debuts composer-in-residence Viet Cuong’s new work, “Now and Then,” which grew out of the orchestra’s new Sandbox residency program. Also slated for the evening is Caroline Shaw’s “Entr’acte,” which was inspired by Haydn’s Op. 77 No. 2, which abruptly switches from major to minor key during the minuet. After intermission, the SPCO will play Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” followed by an homage to Duke Ellington by composer Jeff Scott played by a quintet to finish off the evening. Friday, Nov. 25 and Saturday, Nov. 26 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 27 at 2 p.m. at the Ordway Concert Hall, ($12 to $50). More information here.

Small Business Saturday

Skip the big box stores this weekend and head to local businesses to get a head start on your holiday shopping. Here are a few Small Business Saturday events to get you started:

Small Business Saturday Artist and Writer Mart at Open Book

Artists, zinesters, printers, writers, bookmakers, game makers and more will be ready for you at Open Book for an artist mart that lets you skip the middleman and buy directly from the creators. While you’re there, you can also visit Small Business Saturday at Milkweed Books and Minnesota Center for Book Arts in the Same Building. The former promises snacks and beverages, plus surprise author guests, and the latter is offering creative activities plus rewards for shopping. Saturday, Nov. 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Open Book, Milkweed’s event will run until 5 p.m. (free). More information here.

FacebookComma, a bookshop Comma, a Bookshop Grand Opening

Minneapolis’ newest book store is opening in Linden Hills, in the former location of Callahan Framing Company. They’ll have giveaways, snacks, and show off their inventory. Saturday, Nov. 26, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Comma, A Bookshop (free). More information here.

Amy Jeanchaiyaphum

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ColorWheel Gallery: Pop-Up Artist Amy Sundby

Guest artist Amy Sundby Jeanchaiyaphum visits this Kingfield art gallery with examples of her photography, watercolor art and more. Besides original pieces, ColorWheel will be selling prints, cards and more. Saturday, Nov. 26 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at ColorWheel Gallery (free). More information here.

Supplied.Obsidian Pause Wearable Art Small Business Saturday at the Northrop King Building

The artists at Northrop King will be selling everything from jewelry and glass art to photography, graphics, paintings, and more. From textile pieces to home decor and ceramic works, grab that special gift for your special person or persons. Saturday, Nov. 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Northrop King.  More information here.

FacebookCindy Lawson Post-Thanksgiving Music Feast at Barely Brothers

Visit Saint Paul’s vinyl-only record store for a post-Thanksgiving in-store music session. Pick up new releases by Beebe Gallini and Cindy Lawson, who will also be playing live. Also hear tunes by Warcake and Mad Mojo Jett. Saturday, Nov. 26 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Barely Brothers (free). More information here.

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Fans Respond to Hallmark Channels New Movie Strategy

Hallmark Scene from Hallmark Channel's comedy "Haul Out the Holly" including cast members Melissa Peterman and Lacey Chabert

After two decades of mastering the art of pumping out G-rated, romantic TV movies and creating a whole new cable TV niche in the process, the Hallmark Channel recently announced it was ready to evolve creatively, hoping its loyal viewers were ready to grow with it. Network executives announced in August 2022 that they were branching out by finding new ways to define, celebrate, and share love in all its forms and exploring different types of storytelling, including more comedies. If the ratings are any indication, the new strategy has been a slam dunk for the network and its stars.

Hallmark Channel Outperforming All Entertainment Networks as Execs Aim to Celebrate ‘Love of Every Kind’

Hallmark“Time For Him To Come Home For Christmas” was one of seven movies Hallmark Channel premiered during Thanksgiving week in 2022

Hallmark fans are showing up for and applauding the network’s creative growth. Over Thanksgiving weekend, Hallmark Channel debuted seven all-new original movies as part of its annual Countdown to Christmas programming. For the 10th year in a row, viewers flocked to the channel, making it the #1 most-watched network on cable TV during Thanksgiving week among women 18 and over. Hallmark says it blew the competition out of the water, outperforming the nearest entertainment cable network by 119%.

At the Television Critics Association virtual summer press tour in August, Hallmark Media president Wonya Lucas and programming vice president Lisa Day outlined some of the subtle but important changes viewers might notice moving forward, including different types of storytelling and greater inclusivity and diversity — from launching Mahogany, a programming version of Hallmark’s 34-year-old greeting card line written through the perspective of Black women, to the network’s first movie centered around a gay couple in “The Sitter,” premiering December 11.

“Our brand is centered around love of every kind and love for all,” Lucas said. “And, over the last two-plus decades, we have established a programming niche that brings to life the Hallmark brand. The common denominator of our content is love in all its many forms. We believe that all humans deserve and are indeed worthy of love and seeing themselves in loving relationships through our storytelling.”

Hallmark has also been evolving the kinds of movies it produces, allowing its creative teams to think outside the box, from more comedies to getting innovative about how a movie looks and feels.

Daly explained, “We’re giving writers more freedom to dream up different stories. We’re giving directors more freedom to shoot things that look a little different and are more artful in some ways. I think that we’re just trying to push our boundaries in every way we can to give our viewers fresh, lovely, new experiences wherever we can.”

The strategy clearly seems to be working. According to Hallmark Media, the new original movies that Hallmark Channel premiered over the holiday nabbed six of the top 10 spots in most-watched entertainment cable programs during Thanksgiving week. Those included “Haul Out the Holly” starring Lacey Chabert and Wes Brown, the Blake Shelton-produced “Time for Him to Come Home for Christmas,” and “A Holiday Spectacular” featuring the Rockettes.

Wes Brown Says He’s Grateful Fans Are Embracing ‘Newer’ Approach at Hallmark

HallmarkWes Brown and Lacey Chabert star in “Haul Out the Holly” on Hallmark Channel

As part of its evolution, Hallmark Channel tapped its longtime star Lacey Chabert to film her first Christmas comedy, “Haul Out the Holly,” which premiered on November 26. The movie drew in tons of viewers with a star-studded cast including Chabert, Wes Brown, Stephen Tobolowsky, Melissa Peterman, and Ellen Travolta. It not only was a huge hit over the Thanksgiving weekend, but became ad-supported cable TV’s #1 most-watched movie of the year among key demographics.

In an Instagram Live on November 30, Hallmark fan-favorite Brown said knowing the comedy appealed to viewers was a thrill.

“We’re really proud of this film,” he said. “We just got our numbers back and we’re so excited about how well it did, how well it was received. I just really appreciate everyone getting behind something a little newer in the terms of Hallmark world. It was just so much fun to shoot.”

Hallmark’s new strategy seems to be working beyond Thanksgiving week. Nielsen ratings show Hallmark Channel was the third most-watched cable network during primetime throughout the month of November, only behind ESPN and Fox News.

Another huge hit for the network has been the comedy “Three Wise Men and a Baby,” with its first trio of male leads. Based on same-day, live viewing, the movie — which debuted on November 19 — broke Hallmark ratings records dating back to 2019.

Fans have been vocal about how much they love and want more of this expansion in Hallmark’s creative strategy. On December 3, when Hallmark Channel partially live-streamed a Roma Drama Christmas panel featuring the cast of “Three Wise Men and a Baby,” virtual fans were begging for a sequel and others left comments praising Hallmark for the “different” approach.

For instance, one fan wrote, “My husband even watched this one with me!! When it ended, we both said, Wow that was different than most, but really really good! We had fun watching it together.”

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