Bellefonte Victorian Christmas to feature new historical tour

BELLEFONTE — The time of year when Victorian Bellefonte comes alive with Christmas cheer is soon upon us.

The annual Bellefonte Victorian Christmas will return Friday and run through Sunday. A new feature this year is the Bellefonte Women’s Club’s “History on Wheels” guided tour, which is a combination of previous years’ bus and homes tours, with a new twist.

“We’re really excited to start something new — a new adventure and a new way for people to appreciate our community, because there’s a lot of rich information that many people don’t know,” said Mary Kay Justice, chair of the tour committee and member of the Bellefonte Women’s Club.

The 90-minute bus tour will include five stops: Bellefonte’s first hospital, the Centre County Courthouse Annex, Confer’s Jewelers, the Hastings Mansion, and the Anna Keichline home. At each stop, volunteers dressed in period clothing will come onto the bus and tell the story of the famous person they are each portraying, Justice said.

“People will hear stories of romance, stories of adventure, stories of chicanery, and stories with humor,” Justice said.

Famous people coming aboard “History on Wheels” include the late Gov. Andrew Beaver; the wife of the first doctor who started the Bellefonte Hospital; and Dr. Meek, a female doctor born in Bellefonte who had to move to Alaska to practice medicine. Also making an appearance will be Anna Keichline, Pennsylvania’s first registered female architect, who will be portrayed by her great-niece Nancy Perkins.

“One of the things I appreciated from all this experience is to understand why some Victorian communities survived and why some didn’t,” Justice said. “I think it’s because of the people who we encounter on the tour. The people on the tour are going to help them understand why this community survived and thrived.”

The idea for the new tours came from Justice’s visit to an 80-acre cemetery in Buffalo, which offers cemetery tours.

“As you’re going through this guided tour, people come on the bus — ‘famous people’ from the cemetery — and tell their stories,” Justice explained.

There will be six “History on Wheels” tours on Saturday. Tours begin at the Bellefonte Train Station, at 320 W. High St. The tours are made up of two buses each and start at 11:30 a.m., 12 noon, 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., and 4 p.m. The cost per person is $20.

At the end of the bus tour, hostesses escort visitors into two homes being showcased this year on East Linn Street: The Our Fair Lady B&B, an old Victorian home built in 1883, and the home of Millie Ragosta, who lives at the site of the former Bellefonte Area High School. The high school was built in 1911 and later damaged by fire in February 1939.

Tour guides will include local community members: Bellefonte Mayor Tom Wilson; Bellefonte Area School District Superintendent of Schools Michelle Saylor; Patti Hillard, director of transportation for Bellefonte Area School District; and Ann Seager, a retired high school English teacher.

If the tours are successful, Justice said she would like to bring them back for future Victorian Christmas events, and there is even a possibility of doing similar tours for the Underground Railroad and the Civil War.

“It will be a great time for everybody who chooses to go on the tour,” said Sally Houser, Victorian Christmas co-chair. “The houses are lovely, it’s wonderful to see the houses, but I think one of the things about Victorian Christmas that I always said in my welcome is that I want people to soak up the history, and this is the best way to do it.”

Pre-sale tickets for the “History on Wheels” tours can be purchased at three locations: Plumb’s Drug Store at 105 N. Allegheny St., Woodring’s Floral Gardens at 125 S. Allegheny St., and the Bellefonte Train Station.

Tickets on the day of the tour will be available at the Bellefonte Train Station from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The tours are a collaboration between Historic Bellefonte Inc., the Bellefonte Victorian Christmas Committee and Bellefonte Area School District.

One thing Houser encourages visitors to do is fill out a survey at the information booth of the YMCA of Centre County’s Bellefonte location, and visitors are asked to give feedback on what they liked about the tours and other events and what can be improved upon. Survey participants will be entered into a drawing for the “Basket of Bellefonte,” a goodie basket full of local businesses’ products and gift certificates. The drawing for the basket will take place Sunday afternoon.

Visitors to Victorian Christmas will find free shuttle bus service and parking. Free parking will be available at the Bellefonte Area Middle and High schools, and limited free parking will be available in downtown Bellefonte due to the “History on Wheels” tour. From the high school at 830 E. Bishop St., shuttle buses will stop at the middle school at 100 N. School St., and on the the diamond in front of the Centre County Courthouse.

On Saturday only, there will be a marked bus at the high school and on the diamond to shuttle visitors to the Festival of Trees at the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology (CPI) at Pleasant Gap. The bus will run from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The full schedule for Bellefonte Victorian Christmas is as follows:

TOMORROW

9 a.m.-5 p.m. — Used book sale, plus CDs and DVDs, Centre County Library, 200 N. Allegheny St.

4-8 p.m. — Festival of Trees, CPI, 540 N. Harrison Road

5-8 p.m. — Horse-drawn carriage rides, departing the Brockerhoff on Allegheny Street.

6:30 p.m. — Opening ceremonies and entertainment at Bellefonte Elementary School, 100 W. Linn St.

SATURDAY

8:30-11:30 a.m. — Breakfast with Santa and Victorian Christmas Children’s Party, Lambert Hall, Blanchard Street

9 a.m.- 8 p.m. — Festival of Trees, CPI

9 a.m.-4 p.m. — Kids find the Elf on the Shelf, Hooks & Needles Club craft sale, and book sale at the Centre County Library, Scarves n’ More Duo, LuLaRoe, and holiday bake sale

9 a.m.-5 p.m. — Arts and crafts show and sale, YMCA downtown, Bellefonte Elementary School Cafeteria, and Mattress World at 135 S. Spring St.; Bellefonte Art Museum display and sales, 133 N. Allegheny St.

9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. — Free shuttle bus between Bellefonte Middle School and high school parking lots, on the diamond downtown, corner of Allegheny and Linn streets, and CPI Festival of Trees

10 a.m.-4 p.m. — Centre County Library Historical Museum tours and concerts, 203 N. Allegheny St.; historical museum tours, 203 N. Allegheny St.; holiday story times with Mrs. Claus in Children’s Garden, Centre County Historical Museum, 203 N. Allegheny St.

10 a.m. — Toot-In-Common concert, Trinity United Methodist Church

11 a.m. — Holiday story times with Mrs. Claus in Children’s Garden, behind the Centre County Historical Museum; PSU Graduate Brass Quintet, Trinity Church

11 a.m.-2 p.m. — Picker & Papa stroll the streets

11 a.m.-4 p.m. — Horse-drawn carriage rides, departing the Brockerhoff on Allegheny Street.

11:30 a.m. — Bellefonte Women’s History On Wheels Guided Tour

12 noon — Bellefonte Women’s History On Wheels Guided Tour; Callanish in concert at Trinity Church

12 noon-4 p.m. — Santa’s House open on the Diamond

1 p.m. — Children’s tea at the Little House on West Howard Street behind the Centre County Historical Museum; Da Capo in concert at Trinity Church; holiday sing-a-long and Christmas piano music with Judy and Frank Shue, Centre County Library Historical Museum, 203 N. Allegheny St.; Victorian High Tea with entertainment at Reynold’s Mansion, 101 W. Linn St.

1-2:30 p.m. — Dan & Galla Christmas Show at Bellefonte Elementary School Auditorium

1:30 p.m. — Bellefonte Women’s History On Wheels Guided Tour

2 p.m. — Bellefonte Women’s History On Wheels Guided Tour; The Curtin Family Ensemble at Trinity Church

3 p.m. — Bellefonte Women’s History On Wheels Guided Tour; children’s tea at the Little House on East Howard behind the Centre County Historical Museum; Tir Na Nog Irish dance performance, Trinity Church; Victorian High Tea with entertainment at Reynold’s Mansion, 101 W. Linn St.

3:30 p.m. — Bellefonte Women’s History On Wheels Guided Tour

6 p.m. — Gaslight Gala at Match Factory, 100 Match Factory Place

7:30 p.m. — Bellefonte Community Band Concert, Bellefonte High School Theatre, 830 E. Bishop St.

SUNDAY

8:30 a.m. — Bellefonte Knights of Columbus host an all-you-can-eat breakfast, 315 Stony Batter

11 a.m.-4 p.m. — Horse-drawn carriage rides, departing the Brockerhoff on Allegheny Street.

12 p.m.-4 p.m. — Santa’s House open on the Diamond; Festival of Trees, CPI

12 p.m.-5 p.m. — Bellefonte Art Museum displays and sales, 133 N. Allegheny St.

1 p.m. — Victorian High Tea with entertainment at Reynold’s Mansion, 101 W. Linn St.

2 p.m. — Children’s teas at the Little House on West Howard Street behind the Centre County Library Historical Museum; Centre Heritage Singers, Trinity Church.

3 p.m. — Nittany Valley Youth Flute Choir, Trinity Church.

Detailed information about the events can be found online at http://www.bellefontevictorianchristmas.com.

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