BY MARY WICOFF
DANVILLE — The Vermilion County Museum Society’s holiday open house is truly a community affair — with actors, dancers, singers, decorators and others all sharing their talents to make it a success.
“I think the Christmas event is always so much fun because we have so many people involved,” director Sue Richter said. “People do it for us because they like the museum and that’s nice to see.”
The annual event will be 1:30-4 p.m. Saturday in both buildings at the museum, 116 N. Gilbert St.
A new feature this year will be two of Santa’s reindeer, who love to be petted. Visitors may have their picture taken with the animals, provided by Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch near Rantoul.
Richter said the event is a good place for families, saying, “You know the children will have fun and it doesn’t cost anything.” People can come and go during the afternoon.
The Fithian building is already cheerful with decorations, which will be up through December for visitors to enjoy. Lampposts have been decorated by Berry’s Garden Center and floral arrangements put together by the Petal Pushers study group of the Danville Garden Club.
For some, just enjoying the decorations is enough. However, here are the other activities:
--In the museum building, Santa Claus will greet visitors at the 1930s-era street scene, where photos can be taken, and children will receive small treats. In the afternoon, guests of all ages are encouraged to visit the old-fashioned toy display presented by Ken and Mona Hunter.
There will be performances at 2 p.m. by Jodi’s Dance Unlimited and 3 p.m. by Marilyn’s Danceworks.
Kathy Darding will sign copies of her new book, “Callie Hill: New Beginnings, 1866 to 1875,” in the gift shop. The book is the sequel to “Callie Hill: Child of the South.” She will have books available for purchase for $20.
Light refreshments will be served.
--In the Fithian Home, the afternoon’s entertainment will include costumed characters from Vermilion County’s past.
The following will relate tales from the past: Dr. William H. Fithian (Jim Wolfe), Josephine Fithian (Jamey Coutant), “Uncle Joe” Cannon (Sonny Downing), Cynthia Barkley (Nancy Henderson), Amelia Feldkamp (Sue Harden), Bernard Feldkamp (Chase Todd), George W. Holloway (Ed Sant), Sophia Holloway (Shannon Schroeder), the cook (Leslie Boedicker), the upstairs maid (Tobi Peck), the nanny (Beverlie Pippenger) and the butler (Frank Smith).
A group from Danville Light Opera will brighten the day with songs in the parlor.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Petal Pushers were busy putting together arrangements to give the 16 rooms in the Fithian Home a holiday look.
When the group first started decorating the museum 15 years ago, they used live flowers and greenery. However, the cost of flowers and their short life span led to the use of artificial plants.
The members used items stored in the museum basement and filled 24 vases with silk flowers, pine cones, beads and holly. The bottom of each vase is marked with the room that it will be placed in and the colors of that room so the gardeners can fill the vases accordingly, member Jan O’Rourke said.
Jody Legett, also a Petal Pusher, said decorating the museum is just one of the group’s community projects. The group also has helped children learn about floral arrangement at Laura Lee Fellowship House in the past and has helped with the Make It Bloom contest.
Making the arrangements for the Fithian Home takes a couple of hours, Legett said.
Wendy Wilder, staff member at the museum, said of the Petal Pushers’ work, “We’re always pleased.”
This year’s open house is sponsored by United Community Bank of Oakwood/Danville and Old National Insurance, with major media sponsor, the Commercial-News.
The Vermilion County Museum’s open house on Saturday is free, and parking is available adjacent to the museum. For more information, call the museum at 442-2922 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.