The Thanksgiving weekend is just around the corner, and as is usual locally, the weekend is crowded with holiday-related events. If you have friends and family visiting from out of town for the long weekend, there’s no shortage of attractions and activities for all ages.
But there is one big surprise on the weekend calendar: The Hiawatha Homes Festival of Trees will not be open this year on Thanksgiving Day. Instead, the festival now has a shorter run, Nov. 27 through Nov. 29.
“The festival has been around for 30 years and we were looking at some ways of keeping it fun and fresh,” said Crystal Landherr, who handles publicity for the festival. “We tossed around a lot of new ideas and one was ‘three full days for 30 years.'”
So, after the opening night gala on Tuesday, the festival will go dark the following two days, and reopen on Friday, Nov. 27. Thanksgiving Day has traditionally been a day for families to attend before or after their big meal. But, Landherr said, “Wednesday and Thanksgiving were our lowest attendance days.”
The three days the festival is open are packed with activities, in addition to the usual live entertainment, holiday gift shop and cafe.
The opening day, Nov. 27, will feature DiverseAbility Day activities. On Nov. 28, there’ll be a children’s carnival and crafts from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the exhibit hall and auditorium. Kids will be able to enjoy games and visit with Santa.
In addition, an ’80s dance party will be held from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Nov. 28, with ’80s costumes, music and contests. Tickets for the dance are $10 with a voucher available on the festival website, or $15 without a voucher. The dance is held in the civic center auditorium, but the lighted Christmas trees, located in the exhibit hall, will be open for the dance.
Regular admission to the festival is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and tour groups, $3 for ages 2-12. Tickets for the opening night gala are $75, available in advance and at the door. Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 27 and 28, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 29.
— The Festival of Trees is a big event, but the biggest attraction of the weekend, especially for younger folks, might be the arrival of Santa Claus in Rochester at 6 p.m. Nov. 27. Just as he has for 41 years, Santa will arrive on the rooftop of the old City Hall, from which he will be rescued by Rochester firefighters.
From there, Santa will join Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede at 6:30 p.m. for the lighting of the Peace Plaza Christmas tree. That ceremony will include jazz music by the D’Sievers, dancers from Dahl Dance Studio, and live music from singer/songwriter Lauren Heydt.
Then, starting at 7:15 p.m., Santa and Mrs. Claus will greet kids of all ages inside the Shops at University Square.
By the way, no matter how chilly or warm the weather might be that day, families are invited to sample hot cocoa and cookies inside the Cambria Gallery, 400 S Broadway, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
— Christmas-related plays are already up and running at both the Rochester Repertory Theatre and the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro. At the Rep, the comedy “Dashing Through the Snow” will be presented on Thanksgiving weekend at 8 p.m. Nov. 27 and 28. For reservations, call 507-289-1737.
At the Commonweal, “Little Women” is presented with a Christmas setting. Thanksgiving weekend performances are at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m Nov. 27 and 28, and at 1:30 p.m Nov. 29. For tickets, call 800-657-7025.
—The Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing hosts Christmas concerts by Lorie Line at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 24 and the Sheldon Theatre Brass band at 7 p.m. Nov. 28 and 2 p.m. Nov. 29. For tickets, call 651-388-8700.
—The Villa Maria Retreat and Conference Center in Frontenac will present a “Festival of Lights” Nov. 28. From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., you can view 100 candle-lit nativities from around the world (free admission). In the evening, a classical music concert will be presented at 7 p.m ($25, includes dessert buffet and wine-tasting), and 1,200 lights will illuminate the grounds. Tickets are at 651-345-4582.
To find other events in the area on Thanksgiving weekend, don’t forget to check the 507 calendar.