Wednesday, November 25, 2015
FINISHING TOUCHES — Mary Beth Johnson completes her tree she calls "Pine Cones and Burlap," one of several she created for the Trees and Trains display tset up for the holiday season in the South Dakota State Railroad Museum in Hill City. This is the best year yet for this event, with 31 trees decorated by businesses and individuals. [PN Photo/CAROL WALKER]
By Carol Walker
Celebrating an old time Christmas evokes thoughts of hot cider and cookies, shiny red apples, trains around the tree, sparkling lights and, of course, Santa Claus. That is just what people will find in Hill City this Friday evening, Nov. 27, when the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce and merchants host an Olde Tyme Christmas Celebration the day after Thanksgiving.
At 5 p.m. there will be a Dickens Celebration on the porch and the sidewalk at the Alpine Inn with members of Xi Alpha Chi sorority handing out free cookies and hot cider to all who come to town. As usual, chestnuts will be roasted on a fire ready for sampling by the crowd. In addition, the Gifts of the Heart Christmas Tree will be set up in the Alpine Inn, decorated with tags that represent children of all ages in the area. People may stop in and pick out a tag and purchase a gift to place under the tree that will go to a local child.
By 5:30 p.m. everyone with an entry in the parade will line up at the parking lot just south of the high school, with the parade of lights beginning there at 6 p.m., traveling down Main Street and circling back south to the 1880 Train and South Dakota State Railroad Museum parking lot.
Santa, who usually rides in the parade, will take a seat in the parking lot and will be available to talk with and hand out apples to children and the young at heart. In the spirit of Christmas, along the parade route, the Hill City Fire Department and Auxiliary and Ambulance Service members will collect canned goods and money to replenish the Community Food Bank.
The train museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, with free admission offered to all after the parade that evening.
For the sixth year in a row, the train museum will host Trees and Trains, a festive display of trees decorated with a variety of themes. This is a record year with 31 different trees, 14 or them created by Hill City businesses, the rest by individuals, the most the museum has ever displayed during the holidays.
This event began six years ago when the building was completed, but it was empty. Rick Mills, curator for the museum, said they wanted to bring together two things that traditionally speak of Christmas: trees and model trains. That year they had model trains running on the museum floor and Mills said it has just grown from that.
“This year Operation Life Saver is coming from Sioux Falls and theirs will be the last tree set up for Trees and Trains. It is a nationwide non-profit that promotes safety around railroads and this is its first outreach, as far as I know, to western South Dakota,” said Mills.
Mary Beth Johnson has been working for several weeks decorating the building and setting up Christmas trees. She said her husband, Charley Johnson, installed floodlights that shine on the trains in the building so that when only those lights and Christmas lights are turned on, the room looks stunning. One of the trees, decorated by Artforms, has many items for children and after the season is done, those things will be donated to the Boys and Girls Club of the Black Hills. Johnson encourages people to come in and see the trees and trains after the parade, when admission is free.
On Friday, Hill City merchants are going all out to welcome residents and visitors into their shops. Many of the businesses will offer treats and hot drinks throughout the day on Friday and Chute Rooster will give out free cookies and hot chocolate to enjoy with Santa after the parade.
See this week’s Western Trader for businesses that are participating in Old Tyme Christmas.
Nov. 28 is Shop Small Saturday, when businesses will offer more discounts and more treats, encouraging people to find special gifts for friends and relatives, right in downtown Hill City.
“I am so happy, pleased and excited by the level of participation by the merchants, chamber members, community members and the service organizations in Hill City for Olde Tyme Christmas. I hope we continue in the same spirit on Saturday and throughout the holiday season and into the new year,” said Janet Wetovick, interim chamber director.