DARTMOUTH — Throughout its decades of existence, the Padanaram Christmas Festival has had nature smiling at it, with only one weather cancellation in all that time.

Friday evening, the festival drew hundreds out in the perfect late fall night, with the temperature hovering at about 30 and the wind dying down to nothing just in time for the three-hour holiday party.

All the ingredients were there: all of the shops and businesses along Elm Street were open and decorated to the T, with many offering the crowds free popcorn, cookies, and other Christmas snacks. A few people were shopping, but mainly people were out to mingle, be dazzled by the lights, and enjoy each other's company.

One venue in particular was getting a lot of attention: The Olde Southworth Library, run by the Dartmouth Cultural Council, Inc., which has had a banner year this year, emerging as the centerpiece of Dartmouth’s substantial population of artists.

Several hundred people stopped by the council’s new home in the course of the evening, and estimates were that 43 of the 128 artists in the South Coast Artists Association were on hand to mingle, giving people a closeup look at the artists who were doing a rare thing: gathering them all in one place. It is the opposite of those very popular open studios tours across the region sponsored by the South Coast Artists.

The exhibition at Southworth featured not just artists but two members of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, giving the gathering a sense of culture even beyond the exhibits.

A few organizations such as the Boy Scouts were on hand to do some recruiting of new members and selling kale soup. Karen Costa and her daughter Sarah were selling Girl Scout cookies on behalf of Troop 80117. Karen estimated that they might sell 200 boxes at $5 each, for a total of $1,000. They said that as the sale goes on, the troop could sell thousands of boxes.

No Christmas festival — they stick with that word in spite of all of the “happy holidays” expressions — would be complete without an appearance by Santa Claus and in this case Mrs. Claus as well. They rode in a fire engine behind a platoon of choreographed dancers from A Dancers Edge, all wearing a necklace of Christmas lights, as many others did, too.

The crowds continued to swell even after an hour and a half. People were hopping on and off the shuttle buses in large numbers well after 6:30 p.m.

Follow Steve Urbon on Twitter @SteveUrbonSCT.