The Journal Gazette
Friday, November 20, 2020 1:00 am

Holiday traditions

City's seasonal favorites can still be seen

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

Things are going to look a little different for many local holiday traditions this year, but that doesn't mean there won't be sounds and sights of the season to enjoy.

Here is a look at some of what the holiday season has to offer in the city. Because of the pandemic, all plans are subject to change.

Downtown lights

Because of the pandemic, the annual Night of Lights celebration has been canceled. But the downtown light displays including Santa and his reindeer will be featured in “Merry and Bright: A History of the Night of Lights” airing at 7 p.m. Wednesday on WANE-TV.

The downtown light displays were lit this week so they could be filmed for the special. They will remain lit through New Year's Day, so plan a night to drive or walk around the city checking them out while maintaining social distance.

Voting for the annual holiday window decorating contest opens Thursday.

For more information, go to

Festival of Gingerbread

The History Center's annual Festival of Gingerbread opens Nov. 27 and runs through Dec. 13.

Because of the pandemic, the number of visitors will be limited to 80 per hour. There will be a one-way traffic flow and gingerbread creations will be displayed in staggered clusters so smaller groups of people such as a family can view one socially distanced cluster before moving on to the next. Face coverings will be required for everyone ages 3 and older.

Those protocols were what was planned as of Tuesday afternoon and could change before the festival begins next week.

History Center Executive Director Todd Maxwell Pelfrey still expects a large number of gingerbread creations for the festival, though the exact number won't be known until the delivery deadline today. If the clusters don't all fit in the usual space, the viewing route can be expanded to other areas of the building.

Fewer attendees are expected this year, but History Center is fine with that, Pelfrey says. In fact, organizers are encouraging people to stay away as they offer a “Virtual Gingerbread Tour” for the first time.

Each gingerbread entry is being filmed from various angles to be included in the professional-quality virtual tour, which will be a series of videos featuring each category. Prices for the virtual experience will be listed on History Center's website when the videos are available Nov. 27.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. During “extra care hours” from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday starting Nov. 30, there will be extra sanitation, no exemptions on face coverings and no large groups scheduled.

Tickets to attend the festival in person are $6 adults, $4 seniors ages 65 and older and students ages 3 to 17, and free for children age 2 and younger. Admission is free for History Center members.

For the festival's busiest hours (usually the weekends), tickets must be purchased in advance through the website with staggered entry times to help maintain social distancing. Advance tickets are also required for the festival's $3 preview from 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and a free night from 5 to 9 p.m. Dec. 1.

Admission includes access to the entire museum, which will also have exhibits on the Wolf & Dessauer department store, holiday sweets and the “12 Days of Christmas” illustrated with historical objects.

“From golden rings to lords a leaping, it was an exciting challenge to find appropriate objects for each of those 12 categories within the collection,” Pelfrey says. “We're obviously a little light on hens and geese. But our collection staff came up with some really interesting, creative entries for each of those 12 days that we're excited to share with the public.”

For more information on the festival, a full schedule of additional activities such as ornament and card crafting, and any updates to admission and protocols, go to

Festival of Trees

Embassy Theatre's 36th Festival of Trees will be open Wednesday through Dec. 6.

The first-floor lobbies of the Embassy and Indiana Hotel will feature more than 40 trees decorated with the theme “comfort and joy” and Santa will be available virtually so families can talk to him and take a picture.

The Embassy announced updated plans for the festival Thursday that include canceling stage performances and a screening next week of “White Christmas” to help keep capacity numbers under new local and state restrictions. The festival has also extended hours and added days to increase opportunities to visit.

Masks are required and visitors will follow a one-way traffic flow incorporating social distancing. Tickets will be sold in 90-minute blocks for Wednesday through Dec. 2 and 60-minute blocks from Dec. 3 to 6. Frequently touched areas will be cleaned between each block.

Hours are 4 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, 2 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 27 to 29, 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 3, 11 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Dec. 4 and 5, and 2:15 to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 6.

Admission is $10 for ages 13 and older, $5 ages 1 to 12 and free for children younger than 1. Tickets are available at the Embassy box office, by calling 424-5665 or at and

A video tour will be available for viewing Dec. 3 to Jan. 1. Tickets for the video are $25 and will be on sale Wednesday.

For more information and updates to admission and protocols, go to

Heartland Sings

Heartland Sings concerts have become holiday staples. Though they won't be seen in person this year, the music can still be enjoyed over the computer or through your TV.

It's annual “Spirit of Christmas” concert will be streamed as an on-demand video available Dec. 14 for $20. The concert also will be broadcast at 7 p.m. Dec. 24 on WPTA-TV.

Heartland Sings will stream Handel's “Messiah” as an on-demand video available Dec. 14 for $20. It also will be shown as a one-hour broadcast at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 on Channel 21.2 and a two-hour broadcast at 7 p.m. Dec. 20 on Channel 21.3.

To buy tickets for the streaming video, go to

Fantasy of Lights

Blue Jacket's Fantasy of Lights is closed to vehicles this weekend for the annual Fort4Fitness activities today and Saturday and a $5 bike ride Sunday, but it opens back up for the public to visit in vehicles Tuesday and runs through Dec. 31.

The drive-thru event at Franke Park features more than 130 light displays. Hours are 6 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Prices are $10 for personal vehicles, $20 for commercial vans and $40 for trolleys and buses.

If you want to get out of your car, there is an open air Christmas Market with food and items to buy Dec. 10 to 13 and 17 to 23. On those nights there is also a Santa experience with the jolly guy behind Plexiglas so kids can make their wishes and take a picture.

For more information, including details on discounted admission, go to

Botanical Conservatory

Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory's annual holiday exhibit opens Saturday and runs through Jan. 3.

This year's theme is “Oh? Christmas Tree!” and the conservatory will feature Christmas traditions from around the world that are related to trees. The displays will include a 12-foot-tall poinsettia “tree.”

The conservatory's “Garden in Lights” outdoor lighted displays begin Wednesday.

Regular public hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Friday hours are extended to 8 p.m. Nov. 27 through Dec. 18.

Admission is $5 adults, $3 ages 3 to 17 and free for children 2 and younger.

For more information including a schedule of additional activities such as music and reindeer visits, go to

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