As final preparations are underway for the Yellow Trail Museum’s 19th Annual Christmas of Yesteryear event set to kick off Hope’s holiday season at 5 p.m. Friday on the Hope Town Square, organizers say this year will be a bit different from year’s past.

The event, which historically has attracted upwards of 1,000 people annually, is the first official holiday event in Bartholomew County and serves as the launch of the holiday shopping season in Hope.

Since the event was on hiatus last year due to the pandemic, Jessica Brown, president of the Yellow Trail Museum, is looking forward to seeing some familiar and fresh faces Friday evening as area residents come to welcome the holiday season.

“And, of course, to celebrate Christmas,” she adds. “As I know they always see this event as a kickoff to the shopping season in Hope.”

Although the evening will look much like it has in years past, Brown says visitors will notice some small changes to the schedule and offerings.

Among the new offerings will be a dedication and lighting of a Christmas tree on the bandstand, Brown says.

“The tree is one that came from Chuck Baker’s estate sale that WILLow LeaVes had,” Brown says. “I’ve thought it to be more Gilmore Girls-like or something to make it a big deal.”

Adding to the festive ambiance will be Hauser’s German Club, who will accompany Brown in song as a nod to Hope’s German heritage.

“We are going to sing ‘O Tannenbaum’ and ‘Stille Nacht,’ which are the German versions of ‘O Christmas Tree’ and ‘Silent Night,’” Brown explains.

Not too long after festivities begin, jolly Ol’ Saint Nick will arrive and settle in at the Yellow Trail Museum where he will meet with area kiddos and hear their holiday wishes.

“We have expanded the museum a bit, so the new place where the rural letter carrier’s museum is going to be is where Santa will be,” Brown says. “We are going to try to keep it socially distanced and allow only so many people in the room at a time to get their picture with Santa. We will also have the line waiting in the next room. There will be crafts in that room for kids to do and also a letter to Santa activity center.”

Children who pen a letter to Santa will deposit it in a mail box on site, which will later be collected and delivered to Santa personally by Yellow Trail Museum staff, Brown says.

Although it is forecast to be a bit chilly that evening, there will also be a variety of children’s activities offered at the shelter house on the Square as the kids wait for Santa’s arrival, Brown adds.

Unfortunately, due to a variety of planning and logistical challenges some event favorites will not be included this year, such as carriage rides and some interactive kids’ activities at the museum like cookie decorating.

“Given COVID, we didn’t feel like it was good to have people gathered closely in carriages or offering food-related activities in the museum,” Brown explains.

However, despite the changes, there is still much holiday fun to be had by all.

Parents accompanying their kids to see Santa at the Yellow Trail can treat themselves to some hot coffee or tea on site, Brown says. And those who annually indulge in some sweet treats can look forward to sticking with tradition this year as the Yellow Trail is offering the return of their holiday bake sale, Brown says.

“All the baked goods are donated by local good-hearted citizens,” Brown says.

All proceeds from the bake sale will go to help fund the Yellow Trail Museum and its programming, Brown says.

At 5 and 7 p.m. historical characters from Hope’s past will gather to perform monologues and skits on the bandstand, Brown says, who herself plans to be dressed as Prudence Winterrowd, the granddaughter of the Reverend Francis Holland, founder of the Moravian Ladies Seminary, who went on to be a major player in the Women’s Suffrage Movement of the early 1900s.

“It is going to be the same setup as in years’ past,” Brown says. “There is a narrator in between each one to introduce them and we always have Susannah and Martin Hauser, you can’t leave them out.”

Some of the historical personalities making an appearance will be Sarah Wolle (portrayed by Rachel Hoke), who played a pivotal role in the early 1870s as a teacher at the Moravian Ladies Seminary, and Vern Miller (performed by Will Walters), who was instrumental in bringing basketball to Hope in 1906 when it was almost unheard of to have a basketball team.

Brown says heading up some elements of the evening, such as the historical character reenactments, allows her to indulge her passion.

“I just really enjoy playing different characters because drama is my thing,” Brown says. “And dressing up as someone from the past and being able to teach that little bit of history that people might not know, I enjoy that.”

A live nativity will be presented at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. in the vacant lot between The Swiss Maid and WILLow LeaVes of Hope, Brown says.

In place of roaming carolers and carriage rides, Vicki Tedder, co-owner of WILLow LeaVes of Hope, says this year WILLow LeaVes will host the carolers indoors on the WILLow LeaVes stage.

The restaurant’s menu that evening will feature WILLow LeaVes popular chicken and noodle dinner. Also, to help visitors warm up from the inside, WILLow LeaVes will also feature its new coffee bar, which will include some classic holiday flavors, Tedder says.

Whether it is the launch of the holiday season or simply the ambiance of the evening, Tedder says this is one of her favorite times of year.

“Oh my gosh, I love it,” Tedder says. “This is my favorite event on the town Square along with Fourth of July.”

Taking a moment to reflect on the history of the event and its return this year, Brown says one thing remains constant is the evening serves as an opportunity for area folks to gather, mingle and celebrate the season.

“I think it is important just to get people downtown to Hope to shop and enjoy our beautiful town Square,” Brown says.