by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Holiday cheer will overflow at the Winona County History Center this Sunday during a new family event which will include activities from cookie decorating to seasonal story time.
At the Old Fashioned Family Christmas Festival, attendees will be able to make paper ornaments, create bookmarks and play with vintage-style toys, said Winona County Historical Society Museum Educator Jennifer Weaver.
Santa will also be in attendance at the festival, Weaver stated.
“He will be able to visit with folks, and if people want their photo taken with him, they are more than welcome to have it taken,” Weaver shared. The photos will be posted in an album on the Winona County History Center’s Facebook page so attendees can access them after the festival, she added.
In Santa’s toy bag, there will be an elf who will escape and hide in the exhibits. The elf will move around the exhibits throughout the day, and attendees will have an opportunity to go find him and earn a prize.
Additionally, both retired and current local teachers will stop by every half hour to read a favorite holiday story. One of the teachers will be Kristi Conway, who was recently named the Teacher of the Year for Winona Area Public Schools.
The festival will be open-house style so attendees can take part in as many or as few activities as they wish. The relaxed family event will also feature a hot cocoa and coffee bar.
Weaver said she feels the festival will be a good chance for people to come together and spend time with one another amid the busy holiday season.
Those who make a purchase in the museum gift shop during the festival will receive a coupon as part of the Winona Gift Shop Hop also being held this weekend. Historical society members will also receive a 25-percent discount at the gift shop throughout December. Attendees may sign up as historical society members at the festival and give memberships as gifts this holiday season.
The festival will serve as a winter fundraiser for the Winona County Historical Society this year, Weaver noted. Next year, the beloved Christmas House Tour will return as the winter fundraiser. The events will then alternate, with the festival being held each odd-numbered year and the house tour taking place every even-numbered year.
The Christmas House Tour has been held for around 30 years, Weaver stated. After receiving a map, participants tour six homes and a church that are decorated for the holidays in any order they wish during the event. Historic homes and newer homes are both represented on the tour, and information about the historic homes is provided.
Tickets are available at the Winona County History Center before the tour and on the day of the event. The tour will take place again on the first Sunday in December next year.
Weaver said historical society staff members had been considering taking a break from the tour, but people in the community expressed a wish for the event to continue, with some coming forward and offering to open up their homes for the tour. Weaver explained that staff members decided a good compromise would be alternating between the tour and the festival.
The festival will be held this Sunday, December 8, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Winona County History Center. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for youth and $15 for families. The family rate admits two adults and up to five children.