December fun still sparkles despite pandemic
As we look back on 2020, holiday cheer seems to be just what the doctor ordered to close an overwhelming year. While many December traditions feel out of reach, some occasions still are available to Kentucky families throughout the state, glimmering like candles in a dark window.
Historic communities provide opportunities to enjoy an old-world Christmas season. On Saturday, December 5, Old Washington in Maysville is hosting its annual Frontier Christmas Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can enjoy timeless treasures, including caroling and horse-drawn carriage rides, or take a free tour of one of the village’s six museums.
While capacity limits are being enforced for indoor spaces and activities, the district will be decorated with a bounty of live greenery, a dazzling outdoor tree and a traditional sleigh for photo ops. With no tickets required, revelers can stroll around town with a cup of cider, take in live music from a dulcimer group playing festive tunes, or select fresh produce, meats and sundries from the Winter Farmers Market.
Vintage charm also awaits in Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. Each Saturday in December until Christmas, the village is hosting Illuminated Evenings, complete with crafts, live music and cozy bonfires. Kids can warm up with a cup of hot chocolate and write their letter to Santa, while parents may take advantage of the shops’ extended hours to find one-of-a-kind gifts for loved ones.
Illuminated Evenings begin at 5 p.m., and donations of new winter gear or nonperishable foods for the Shaker Village Giving Tree are encouraged in lieu of regular $5 admission. Visitors also can purchase tickets online for daytime events each Saturday, including afternoon tea or a festive craft workshop before the village lights up at dusk.
Head south for more fun
The first weekend in December has a lot to offer in the Bowling Green area. On Friday, December 4, the 21st annual Christmas parade will pass through the town of Smiths Grove, welcoming participants and spectators. Parades past have included floats, horses and firetrucks moving down Main Street, so visitors can enjoy festivities from a safe distance.
A few miles west, Lost River Cave brings together natural wonderland Christmas spirit with its annual Reindeer Encounter on December 5. Ticket holders can greet Santa before seeing Mrs. Claus and Prancer the reindeer, a beloved holiday celebrity unique to the park.
Annual Giving Manager Kate Holmes is quick to point out that spending time outside in the cold months always helps to stave off wintertime blues, but especially now as we continue dealing with COVID-19 and safety-related isolation.
“Nature has been a safe space and a respite throughout the pandemic. We’re excited to see everyone we can, but if you can’t make it to the Reindeer Encounter, we hope you come out to enjoy the trails,” she says. “It’s great to see people realizing what we have here: 72 acres of natural space where you can get outside and escape from the stress of daily life.”
Lost River Cave has made adjustments for those eager to see visitors from the North Pole, including a slight change of venue to enforce spacing in line. “We will have social distancing measures in place, so put on your best holiday mask and get ready for your picture with Santa,” Holmes says.
Tickets sell out quickly online for this annual event, she says, but Lost River Cave has plenty to offer all year. “We do the Cave Boat Tour year-round because of its natural 55-degree weather, and the trails are open year-round during daylight hours,” Holmes says. “Dress appropriately for the weather, get out there, and see some cool things.”
After a day of exploring, Bowling Green visitors can warm up and relax in the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center with a family friendly movie feature. Each year, SKyPAC kicks off the holiday season with a week of Gingerbread Home for the Arts in November. Immediately after Thanksgiving, weekends are filled with showings of seasonal favorites such as Home Alone, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and It’s a Wonderful Life.
“We want to keep the spirit of the holidays as best as we can,” says SKyPAC Vice President and Chief of External Affairs Rob Hankins. “Our space will be limited to 50% capacity and we’ll be following social distancing guidelines.”
Tickets for each showing are $5 per person, available online and at the door, but visitors are encouraged to purchase online since numbers are limited. Live music lovers also can see Guy Penrod in concert on December 5, A Rockin’ Christmas with the Rewinders on December 18, or a New Year’s Eve performance by Tyrone Dunn and Kin-Foke.