BELLEFONTE - This weekend you will find Bellefonte full of activity everywhere you look; it is the 31st annual Victorian Christmas. There will be something for everyone. Just some of the highlights are a Breakfast With Santa, arts and crafts at three locations, carriage rides, the home tour, walking tours and wonderful concerts.
The event's opening ceremony is Friday at the Bellefonte Elementary School at 6:30 p.m.. featuring the Bellefonte Community Band, the Nittany Knights, the Bellefonte Elementary School fourth and Fifth Grade Choir, middle school Women's Chorale, St. John's Elementary School Choir, and other special performances including a preview performance of "Dickens' Holiday."
Mayor Kent Addis will officially open the event.
This year the Bellefonte Historic and Cultural Association offers historic walking tours downtown on both Saturday and Sunday. The tours meet at 2 p.m. at the courthouse both days.
The Centre County United Way Festival of Trees opens today at Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology (CPI), Harrison Road, Pleasant Gap, and shuttle buses will go to and from downtown Bellefonte. The schedule is: 4 to 9 p.m. today and Friday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Admission to the Festival of Trees, including entertainment and vendors, is $2 for adults and $1 for children.
The Centre County Library and Historical Museum offers free museum tours and hot cider Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors also will hear some community pianists play the 1890 Steinway grand from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. Opera singer Amanda Silliker will lead a children's carol sing and magic lantern show at 2 p.m., 2:20 and 2:40.
On Sunday, the tours, free cider and piano concerts are offered from noon to 3 p.m., with an instrumental Christmas concert from 3 to 4 p.m. The building is at 203 Allegheny St.
The Girl Scout Little House, in the carriage house behind the library, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The Little House invites the public to come help the Girl Scouts celebrate the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting. There will be mini-museum with vintage uniforms and a display from each of the troops in this scouting region. Admission is free.
Everyone has favorite parts of Victorian Christmas, and I must ask you to allow me to indulge in sharing a couple of my favorite activities.
One is the Bellefonte Community Band Christmas concert. The band does a terrific job and it is a must-see on my list. The concert is on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the new location of the Bellefonte Elementary School.
The second favorite for me is the homes tour; it always features some wonderful historic homes in Bellefonte, and this year is no exception. One of the homes on this year's tour is owned by Candace and Robert Dannaker at 203 E. Howard. Built in 1830 by Samuel Harris, it was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
During the tour, visitors will be allowed on the first floor only, however there will be a slide show of the rest of the home running on one of the televisions. Candace said the staircase in this house is very narrow and it and the railings are original and not sturdy enough for a lot of people coming and going.
You will find there are still three working fireplaces and the mantels are beautifully decorated.
The Dannakers' home was on the tour once before, in 1989.
Candace said, "I think the Bellefonte Federated Women's Club works tirelessly to open the homes of Bellefonte, and we felt it was time to share in that hospitality."
The home is not in the Bellefonte Historic District but, Candace said, is considered a contributing building to the district. Its architectural style is Simple Stone Georgian.
"It really represents the style of Bellefonte during the time it was built," she said.
Candace was the mayor of Bellefonte at one time and found it interesting that in the early 1900s, then-mayor Harmon Harris lived in the house.
The house was in the Harris family until the 1940s and since then has had had five owners, she said. It has been a tailor shop, and one woman who owned it had a candy store in the parlor, selling candy out a window that is no longer in the room, she added.
"At one time there was a Quaker marriage in the main parlor of the home," she said.
"The first time I walked through the front door, I knew there had been a lot of love and caring that had taken place in this home. The people who have lived here were warm, caring and good families," she said. "My hope is that the people who tour this house will feel the comfort and love that has taken place in this house."
Events planned to bring a bit of Victorian Christmas past to your present-day celebration are listed below.
Trinity United Methodist Church, , 128 W. Howard St., will host free concerts on this schedule:
- 10 a.m. - Ancient Echoes
- 11 a.m. - Centre Brass Quintet
- Noon - St. John Evangelist Folk Choir
- 1 p.m. - Allegria Ensemble
- 2 p.m. - Callanish
- 3 p.m. - Toot-In-Common
- 2 p.m. - Nittany Valley Symphony Youth Flute Choir
- 3 p.m. - Phil Bressler and Andrea Noid Flute Duo
- Bellefonte Community Band - 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Bellefonte Elementary School Auditorium, Allegheny and Linn streets.
- Community Choir concert - 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Bellefonte High School Theatre, East Bishop Street, free; donations for Bellefonte Victorian Christmas accepted at the door. This is the "grand finale" and most-awaited Christmas concert of the season, so get there early for a good seat. Miriam Locklin is the director. Guest musicians and singers include the Centre Heritage Singers. A cookie and punch reception is provided by Bellefonte Moose Lodge No. 206.
- Puppet Meister shows, new this year - 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday, Bellefonte Elementary; cost is a canned good or non-perishable item per person, to be donated to Faith Centre Food Pantry.
- Breakfast With Santa and Victorian Christmas Children's Party - 8:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Lambert Hall, Blanchard Street. Kids are invited for free crafts and activities, plus a visit with Santa. They also can have a full breakfast for $3 ($6 for adults), which is optional. Seating is limited. The breakfast and free activities are sponsored by Bellefonte Kiwanis and SPE Federal Credit Union. **Children may visit with Santa even if they do not participate in Breakfast.
- Santa at The Diamond (in front of the courthouse)- welcomed by Bellefonte High School Brass Band at 11:45 a.m. Saturday, then available to hear children's wishes for free from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. His normal holiday season hours will be 1-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- "Art With Artists" for kids - 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Bellefonte Art Museum of Centre County, 133 N. Allegheny St., $10 per child; no need to pre-register. Activities include making cards and decorations. Parents must accompany children. Call 814-355-9606 for information.
Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob and Mrs. Cratchit, and the Fezziwigs are coming back to Victorian Christmas, plus many more entertaining characters who will stroll the streets. They will engage people in conversations and charitable works. Be sure to hail them - and each other - with a heartfelt "Happy Christmas!"
The troupe also will entertain at the Victorian Christmas High Tea at the Reynolds Mansion and at the Bellefonte Art Museum. The Brian Belge Dickens Troupe is sponsored in part by the art museum.
ARTS AND CRAFTS
Vendors will be at Bellefonte YMCA on High Street; Bellefonte Middle School on School Street; and Bellefonte Elementary - 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets may be purchased in the Brockerhoff building foyer on Allegheny Street or in advance at email@example.com. Rides are available 5-8 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to the regularly scheduled carriage rides, others will be available upon request Friday evening for a special tour of the town, a carriage ride to your dinner reservation, or a ride to the Victorian Christmas opening ceremony.
For pricing and reservations contact Melissa at Melissa.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sponsored by Bellefonte Women's Club, the homes may be toured in any order, 2-7 p.m. Saturday; $15 for adults and $5 for children under 12. The homes on the tour are:
- Susan Nicholas Gephart, 351 E. Bishop St.
- Robert and Candace Dannaker, 203 E. Howard St.
- Dr. Kevin and Carol Burke, 299 W. Linn St. (enter at the end of West Curtin Street)
- Kevin and Leeshaun Musick, 518 E. Curtin St.
- The Ellis Orvis House, 140 E. Linn St.
- Marilyn Roossinck, 166 E. Linn St.
- Millie Regosta, 319 E. Linn St.
Sponsored by the Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association, the guided walking tour departs from the courthouse at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The tour features the downtown, rich in history and architecture, and includes a narrative of legends, styles the history of design periods. Tours are given rain, snow or shine.