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Exploring Kentucky | Catch the Spirit

Holiday events across the commonwealth

By Katherine Tandy Brown

Shaker Village’s Illuminated Evenings features hayrides, bonfires and special programs and performances.

If you’re not yet in a festive mood, the commonwealth is alive with holiday events. The following are but a few of the events taking place across the Bluegrass State this month that are sure to get you in the holiday spirit.

Charles Dickens’s Scrooge is, of course, the ultimate curmudgeon, and you can watch his transformation into a touchy-feely kind of guy during Waveland State Historic Site’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” Dec. 14-16. Because the story and Waveland’s antebellum mansion both were birthed in the 1840s, the historic setting is appropriate and the scenes travel from room to room as the play unfolds.

Arrive early and learn about life on a 19th-century Kentucky plantation with a tour of the home and outbuildings – the icehouse, slave quarters and smokehouse – led by a guide in period attire.

Head south to Somerset for a nostalgic, witty holiday play about some of literature’s favorite characters from Jane Austen in “Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberly,” showing Dec. 21-23 and Dec. 27-30 at the Flashback Theater’s black box performance space in the former Somerset City Hall Building.

Listed by American Theater magazine as one of the most produced plays this year, this charmingly imagined sequel to “Pride and Prejudice” features the bookish Miss Bennett, the ever-dutiful middle sister, tiring of her assigned role while watching her three sisters’ romantic dalliances. When the family gathers for Christmas, an unexpected guest sparks her hope for independence, an intellectual match and perhaps even love.

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Another heartwarming production adapted from the classic animated television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” takes to the stage live Dec. 14-16 at the Star Theater in Russell Springs. Everyone’s favorites from the Peanuts gang – Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy, Linus, et al – discover the true meaning of Christmas. To lift Charlie Brown out of a holiday depression, Lucy suggests he direct a neighborhood play. When his peers mock his best efforts, Charlie Brown learns what Christmas is really about, thanks to Linus, and the gang reunites to celebrate their best Christmas ever.

A small-town movie house that opened in 1949, the Star Theater was completely renovated by the Russell County Arts Council in the 1990s, opened in 1994 and is now a popular venue for plays and concerts, including several sellouts by country music superstar Steve Wariner, who grew up in Russell Springs.

A historic venue in Georgetown provides a step back to Christmas past during the annual Ward Hall Candlelight Tours, Dec. 14-19. Completed in 1857, this 12,000-s.f. antebellum plantation mansion with 27-foot-high Corinthian fluted columns is considered one of the nation’s finest Greek Revival-style mansions and one of the best examples of a mid-19th century classical building in the country.

Ward Hall’s center hallway is dominated by a copy of an 1860 portrait of Sallie Ward, a celebrated Kentucky belle of her day. Her son Junius and his wife, Matilda Viley Ward, built the house. Junius and his brother-in-law, Capt. Willa Viley, first president of the Lexington Racing Association, played a key role in the development of the Kentucky Thoroughbred, most notably through ownership of the incomparable racehorse Lexington, who won the famous 1854 match race against Lecompte at Metarie Race Course in New Orleans.

You’ll find fascinating history in every nook and cranny of Ward Hall.

There’s more history to be found at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg when you visit during Illuminated Evenings on successive Saturdays, Dec. 15 and 22. Begun in 1805, this community of Shakers thrived during the 1800s. Today, much of the remarkable settlement has been restored, its traditions and crafts preserved, its heritage breeds and crops revitalized, and many preservation awards gleaned.

Illuminated Evenings feature Jingle Bell Shuttle Rides; the Elf Shop, where you can craft a gift or write a letter to Santa; holiday music in the 1820 Shaker Meeting House; extended hours for all the Village shops with handmade treasures for gifting; bonfires and hot chocolate and hot cider stations (adults can have their cider “spiced” for a small fee); twinkling lights and special visits with Mrs. Claus. Each weekend will feature different performers, programs and tours.

In addition, you and your family can bring donations of new gloves, hats and scarves for the Shaker Village Giving Tree for local families in need. Giving always ups your cheer meter.

For a holiday happening that’s a bit out of the ordinary, catch Planetarium Pop-Up: Season of Light at the Living Arts and Science Center in Lexington on Dec. 21. Narrated by National Public Radio’s Noah Adams, Season of Light explores the reasons that folks are so fascinated with lighting up their lives during the December holiday season. It’s an exploration of astronomical meanings behind seasonal traditions, including the “Star over Bethlehem.” All about astronomical and cultural themes related to the holiday season, this limited-run program packs an educational impact through a set of multidisciplinary ideas woven throughout that help relate various holiday traditions and astronomy to all our lives.

For more cheery event options, check out the state tourism website, kentuckytourism.com.

Flashback Theater, Somerset

flashbacktheater.co (888) 394-3282

Living Arts & Science Center, Lexington

lasclex.org (859) 252-5222

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Harrodsburg
shakervillageky.org (800) 734-5611

Star Theater, Russell Springs
startheater.ticketleap.com (270) 866-7827

Ward Hall, Georgetown
wardhall.net (502) 863-5356

Waveland State Historic Site, Lexington

parks.ky.gov/parks/historicsites/waveland/ (859) 272-3611

Katherine Tandy Brown is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected]