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After celebrating Thanksgiving this past weekend, the holiday season has officially arrived. That’s especially true in Washington and Marion counties, where the Heart of Kentucky Holiday Festival is set to take over from Friday through Sunday.
The festival, which has once again been named a top-10 winter/holiday festival in the state by the Kentucky Travel Industry Association, will begin in Lebanon with a handful of events on Friday evening and end in Springfield on Sunday afternoon. In between will be numerous activities that are sure to keep guests of all ages entertained.
The festivities will kick off with a parade and Dickens Christmas on Main in Lebanon at 7 p.m. on Friday. Photos with Santa and an arts and crafts fair will be held at the Marion County Heritage Center from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with the first 300 visitors receiving a free ornament. The opening night of the event will be capped with “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” at Center Square at 8 p.m. The arts and crafts fair (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and the Charlie Brown play (7 p.m.) will also be part of Saturday’s festivities.
Much of the attention, however, shifts to Washington County for Saturday’s events, starting with the Carol of the Bells in downtown Springfield at 9:50 a.m.
Nell Haydon, director of Springfield Main Street/Renaissance, said several churches in the area, as well as the 1816 Courthouse building, will ring their bells for eight minutes to signify the start of the day’s events, which will lead up to the “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” Walk at 10 a.m. Children 12-and-under are welcome to meet in the Washington County Industries (formerly Reed’s Key Market) parking lot 15 minutes prior to the event to walk alongside Santa as he makes his way through downtown toward City Hall. Santa and his fire truck will be led through downtown by the Washington County High School marching band. Following the walk, children will have the opportunity to have their photo taken with Santa and will receive a book from St. Catharine College. Haydon said students from SCC have been lending a helping hand as part of a course this semester, leading to several students taking on extensive roles in making this year’s festival a reality. Collecting books to distribute to children during this weekend’s event is just one of the many ways the students have contributed.
Willisburg will be hosting its “Light Up Willisburg” event on Saturday at 5 p.m. Santa Claus will also be making a stop in the northern end of the county, and the celebration will include wagon rides, youth singers and the lighting of decorations along Main Street.
“Santa will be in Lebanon on Friday night, in Springfield around lunch time on Saturday and I’m sure he’s going to be in Willisburg, so he’s got a busy weekend,” Haydon said.
The youngsters aren’t the only ones guaranteed to enjoy themselves this weekend, however. The crafter’s market and bakery has become a staple of the annual event and will once again be hosted in the Old Louisville Store building at 10 a.m. Haydon said the event just hasn’t stopped growing.
“We have 15 or 16 vendors coming in there selling all kinds of Christmas items and the homemakers will have delicious baked goods. We have lots of shoppers and it just gets bigger every year,” she said.
One of the features of the crafter’s market will be The Caring Place board of directors hosting a wrapping center. Guests can bring in their gifts for the ladies at The Caring Place to wrap and visitors, in exchange, can leave a donation for the non-profit organization that benefits victims of domestic violence.
The Lincoln Legacy Museum will open at 11 a.m. for those who have yet to visit the display that was completed this past summer. Also, visitors will have a chance to view the Phil Simms Museum—which is yet to host its grand opening—in the Opera House from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The historic 1851 Maple Hill Manor is hosting an open house from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Willisburg didn’t leave the adults out of the equation, as Horseshoe Bend Winery will be hosting “Christmas Tidbits” from noon to 5 p.m.
Saturday events in Marion County include Loretto’s “Xmas at XB Arena” at 6 p.m. and tours of Maker’s Mark Distillery from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The biggest new addition to this year’s celebration will be the How-To festival, which is hosted by the Washington County Public Library and will be held in the Springfield Opera House.
Washington County becomes the fifth county in Kentucky to host a How-To event, with more than 30 topics being discussed in 30-minute increments.
Guests will have the choice to learn about everything from avoiding the flu to preparing for weather emergencies; from playing the guitar to taking great photographs; from eating healthy during the holidays to keeping your home and identity safe.
Representatives from all over the Washington County community and surrounding areas will be on hand to help educate visitors about the things that are important to their daily lives.
Though most of the topics will be focused on 30-minute periods between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., some of the topics—such as how-to know the most, how-to be a friend and how-to know more about NFL quarterback Phil Simms—will be available throughout the program.
How-to sessions on community vehicles will even teach local residents about Springfield Police Department, Washington County EMS, Washington County Fire Department and Washington County Public Library bookmobile vehicles.
Also, guests this year will be able to tour four exquisite Washington County homes as part of the festival, with all proceeds benefiting St. Dominic School.
The homes of John and Tammy Strickland at 1415 Thurman Lane, Gary and Ginny White-Schatzke at 160 Serenity Drive, Keith and Taylora Schlosser at 316 Harmony Way and Joey and Donna Spalding at 282 Harmony Way will be open to visitors from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Alicia Hale O’Cull said the modern home tours provides a twist on the traditional touring of historic homes.
“In my mind, these are the homes that you drive by and you think, ‘I wonder what that looks like inside.’ This is your opportunity to see some of these beautiful homes that you’ve always admired from the outside,” she said. “This is a chance to see what’s inside that makes them really unique. I like it, because you can see the different ways people decorate and get ideas for how to do your own decorations.”
O’Cull said the homes will be decked out in decorations commemorating the holiday season, including a Santa Claus collection that dates back more than 25 years.
Anyone who wants their home to be featured in the tour in next year’s festival can contact O’Cull at (859) 481-4035. She said local participation is what got the project started and is what will keep it going in the future.
“We just looked for volunteers,” she said about the search for homes to put on this year’s tour. “It’s a big undertaking for these homeowners to have their homes ready and decorated for Christmas and welcoming to people to come in.”
Guests can tour the homes in any order they choose and tickets can be purchased on-site. Advance tickets are also available at Springfield City Hall, the PVA office, Sell with Hale Realty and the St. Dominic Parish/School office.
The Heart of Kentucky Holiday Festival will conclude on Sunday with three events in Springfield. The Lincoln Legacy Museum will once again be open from noon to 4 p.m., while the Lions-Rotary Radio Auction, hosted by 100.9 MIKE FM, takes place in downtown Springfield at 1 p.m. The Mid-Kentucky Chorus will perform “The Beautiful Music of Christmas” at St. Catharine Hall at 3 p.m. to close out the weekend.