Sunday, November 25, 2012 , Updated 10:05 a.m., December 1, 2012
Heritage Farmstead Museum brings the roaring ‘20s to life at Plano Lantern Light
The 26th annual event takes place December 1.
PLANO For the past 26 years, the Heritage Farmstead Museum rang in the holiday season by transforming its 4-acre property into an authentic representation of holiday traditions from years gone by.
The event, known as Lantern Light, has featured a different year of the museum's representative period of 1891 to 1920 every year. On December 1, the event will return, bringing the spirit of the roaring '20s to the historical farmstead.
Plano Mayor Phil Dyer will kick off Lantern Light at 4 p.m., announcing the arrival of Santa Claus and lighting the first of nearly 100 lanterns, which will illuminate the property for the duration of the event.
"It's real magical," said Kathy Strobel, director of education for the museum. "You step through the threshold, and you kind of get a whole new holiday experience. You feel that warmth, that old-fashioned hug, if you will, as you step back in time and remember days gone by."
A Ford Model T and Charleston dance lessons will enhance the 1920s-vibe, and the farm's Victorian Farrell Wilson house and surrounding buildings will feature an era-appropriate Christmas tree and garland.
Inside the Wilson house, children will be in the kitchen baking cookies, and the North Forty Storytellers will be upstairs to share information with guests about holiday traditions and daily life in the 1920s.
"You can kind of see the house come alive a little bit," Strobel said.
Other attractions include a 1920s general store and a full schedule of events at the museum's Pole Barn, including performances by local children's choirs and an excerpt of Scrooge performed by the Plano Repertory Theater. Shelly Slater of WFAA Channel 8 News will emcee the event and be on hand to read Twas the Night Before Christmas to the crowd.
Lantern Light began in 1986 when women from the museum first donned period clothing and gave guided tours of the farmstead by the light of lanterns during the holiday season, Strobel said.
"They knew they had a winner because it was unique," she said. "It wasn't something that had been done anywhere else in Plano, so it was something we had built upon year after year."
Last year's event, which represented the year 1900, drew more than 600 visitors despite being rained out for most of the evening, Strobel said. This year, she hopes the event will draw between 1,000 and 1,500 guests.
"We like to think it's the No. 1 Christmas event in Plano," Strobel said.
M'Lou Hyttinen, executive director of the Heritage Farmstead Museum, said "tradition" is the word that comes to mind when discussing the festival.
"We're just a unique venue that you can't find anywhere else, and it's very rare that you can spend a holiday celebration on a farmstead, with chickens and donkeys, underneath windmills," she said.
Hyttinen pointed to several improvements to the site totaling nearly $300,000 that will enhance the experience for returning visitors. Pathways and other parts of the grounds have been made more accessible, and considerable work has been done to the interior of the house.
In addition, the exterior of the farmstead's outbuildings have been repainted, and repair work has been done to the fencing on the property, Strobel said.
"It's just fresher," she said.
Work on decorating the farmstead is already underway, with close to 100 volunteers from local churches and schools helping give the property a holiday makeover on Saturday.
"These kids are out here all the time trying to help us, because we have such a small staff and such a limited budget," Strobel said. "There's no way we could make this place shine the way it does without groups like that, that come out and help us."
Community organizations, including the Collin County Children's Advocacy Center, which will take unwrapped donations in exchange for free children's admission, and the Plano Art Association, which will feature event-inspired holiday art for auction, will also participate in this year's festivities.
"It definitely is a celebration of the holiday spirit for me, but beyond that, it's a wonderful opportunity for us to bring so many members of our community together, to celebrate together," Strobel said.
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