By RENEE FITE
As the holiday season in Green Country gets under way full-throttle, families and friends are filling their calendars with seasonal fare. And when it comes to the Cherokee County lineup, the phrase “home for the holidays” takes on a whole new meaning.
Special events and ongoing activities, like ice-skating at Snowflake ‘14, just south of Norris Park, make downtown Tahlequah a prime destination. The rink opened last weekend and closes Jan. 1, 2014. It’s is open 2 to 10 p.m. daily except when school is in session; then, it opens at 5 p.m. Cost is $10 per person and includes skate rental. Group rates are available.
Vintage car fans can kick-start the month with a cool ride to help children Sunday, Dec. 1. Bikes and specialty cars are invited to ride in the 10th annual Toy Run, sponsored by the Cherokee Cruisin’ Classic Car Club. Vehicles line up at 2 p.m. at Norris Park and ride to Cherokee County Fairgrounds. All toys will be donated to local children through area agencies. Toys may be dropped off at AutoZone leading up to the Toy Run. For information, contact John, (918) 207-8681, or Lydia, (918) 822-4407.
Tasty treats, and help for the choirs
Locals know some tasty holiday treats are round, warm and glazed. The Tahlequah High School choir and show choir sell tea rings to raise money to attend the 2014 Spring National Vocal Competition in Chicago. Tea rings are available in the Greenwood Elementary cafeteria on Monday, Dec. 2 and Tuesday, Dec. 10, 5 to 8 p.m. They’re $8 per tea ring. E-mail orders to stocksh@tahle quahschools.org.
The volunteers and students make between 120 and 200 when they cook, said Holly Stocks, choir director.
“It depends on how many volunteers show up,” Stocks said. “It’s a yummy tradition the people of Tahlequah have come to expect every year when the weather turns cold.”
Music, more music, and holiday cheer
The first weekend in December offers music, a parade, more music, and tours of beautiful and historic homes.
Beth Herrington, Tahlequah’s first lady of history and preservation gives bus tours and helps host events at the Thompson House – like its primary fundraiser, Victorian Christmas. Remodeling started in 1983, and the home opened in 1990, completely renovated through community support. All proceeds fund the upkeep.
“People like coming to the Thompson House because it’s beautiful; I enjoy it because we educate youngsters about the history of Tahlequah,” said Herrington. “We learn from the past; this helps us educate and plan for the future.”
Tour the historic Thompson House Victorian Christmas Dec. 6-8. Guests can chat with hosts wearing Victorian clothing and browse and shop the hand-crafted items and homemade treats, including the famous pepper jelly. Friday and Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated, at 300 S. College Ave. Call (918) 456-1595 or (918) 456-3742.
It’s a Benny Goodman holiday
Friday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Northeastern State University Center for the Performing Arts, Dave Bennett’s “Benny Goodman Holiday” takes the stage. Clarinet prodigy Dave Bennett, jazz singer Carol McCartney, along with Bennett’s All-Star Septet, will mix Goodman’s big hits and “swing-era” classics. Bennett’s musical influences also include Roy Orbison, Alice Cooper, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Chris Isaak to fuse jazz improvisation with modern pop. A Master Class “Beyond the Stage” with Bennett is also on tap. To purchase tickets, contact the Sequoyah Institute at (918) 458-2075 or visit nsuok.edu/si.
Christmas parade, and a little something afterward
Santa will visit Saturday, Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. during the Tahlequah Christmas Parade along Muskogee Avenue, with snowflake-themed floats, music, cheery children and Mayor Jason Nichols waving from atop a fire truck.
Following the parade, the second annual Snowflake Follies, a music fundraiser for the Tahlequah High School soccer teams at the Dream Theater, will feature Christmas music, the THS Show Choir, THS and TMS Dance teams, an ensemble from the Northwest Arkansas Mandolin Orchestra, local musical talent and the Seneca Street Band. A silent auction gives another opportunity for gift-buying. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children/students and are available from merchants with the snowflake in their windows, team members and at the door.
The annual fundraising event that pairs shopping with touring homes beautifully decorated for the holidays happens Sunday, Dec. 8. The American Association of University Women’s 32nd Annual Tour of Homes, is 1 to 5 p.m. Tickets that day are $10 at tour homes and the reception site, the Cherokee Nation Spider Gallery, 215 Muskogee Ave. Pre-sale tickets are $8 through Saturday, Dec. 7 at area merchants. Homes on the tour this year are: Dr. Tom and Mrs. Jackson , 716 Victor St.; Dr. Steve and Penny Turner, 526 Seminary Ave., also the Goodie Sale site; Hank and Becky Wright, 508 Covington Place; and the Cherokee Arts Center Spider Gallery, 215 S. Muskogee Ave., also the reception and ornament sale site.
Downtown becoming a festival of lights
Colored lights wrapped around trees and decorations in storefronts are giving Tahlequah a sort of fairytale feel. The mayor would like Tahlequah to eventually become known for its Christmas lighting displays.
“I can’t get enough of Christmas lights,” Nichols said. “We’re building on it every year with the help of the Main Street Association and the Chamber of Commerce.”
There’s a lot to do downtown, he added.
“You have the ability to skate on a rink of real ice, and there’s more shopping and dining opportunities downtown than ever before,” he said.
Each year, Nichols looks forward to the special events that kick off the Christmas season: the Cherokee Nation Lights On event, held last weekend; the Lights On Ceremony at Seminary Hall, set for Tuesday; the Christmas parade; and the new Snowflake Follies music fundraiser.”
“I always wanted to do something more after the parade,” he said.
Make a gift, give the gift of an art class, or drop in to see art in action at the Cherokee Arts Center in downtown Tahlequah. Beginning Dec. 4, from 6 to 8 p.m., a loom-weaving class meets every Wednesday for six weeks, taught by National Treasure Dorothy Ice. Cost is $40 per class, with $80 due at registration. Classes are also every Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Beginning Thursday, Dec. 5, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. is an eight-week metalsmithing class taught by Steve Mashburn. The cost is $320, or $40 per class, with $50 due at registration. To register for either class, contact Callie Chunestudy at (918) 453-5728 or callie-chunestudy@ chero kee.org.
Band concerts and arts-and-crafts sessions
The Tahlequah Middle School band will perform its annual Christmas concert Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the Tahlequah Public Schools Performing Arts Center. The following Tuesday, Dec. 17, the Tahlequah High School band will take the stage. Both concerts begin at 6 p.m. and are free to the public.
The Cherokee Heritage Center offers monthly cultural arts classes from basket weaving, pottery and flint-knapping, with the Saturday, Dec. 13, class on Cherokee Clothing – a hunting jacket – from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. . Cost is $40. Contact Tonia Weavel at (918) 456-6007 ex 6161 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second week in December, the Cherokee Nation is hosting several events. Santa Claus and other Christmas characters will be on hand to take photos Thursday, Dec. 12. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the Cherokee Nation opens its doors to visitors with a Christmas Open House. Several Cherokee Nation departments will have festive booths set up to provide visitors with information on services. For more information, call Diane Kelley at (918) 453-5000, ext. 5628.
Then at 6:30 p.m., Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” dinner theater will be presented by Sequoyah High School’s theater department in the school cafeteria, 17091 S. Muskogee Ave. Turkey and dressing will be served. Admission is $5 and $2 for children under 12. The show will also be Friday, Dec. 13 at 6:30 p.m. To make reservations, contact Amanda Ray at (918) 575-3376 or email@example.com.
Saturday, Dec. 14, Father Christmas will visit the Murrell Home Christmas Open House. Built in 1845, the home will be beautifully decorated in the traditional style of the Victorian time period of George Murrell. Victorian Christmas decorations will adorn the lavish parlor, sitting room and dining room. There will also be special exhibits, costumed re-enactors, and refreshments.
More concerts and programs
The third week in December, a Christmas concert and Christmas program highlight student talents. Tuesday, Dec. 17, 11:50 a.m. to 12:20 p.m., the Sequoyah High School band will play a Christmas concert in the school’s gym, 17091 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, contact Sam Morris at (918) 453-5400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, Dec. 20, at 9 a.m. the Cherokee Nation Immersion Charter School students will put on a “Down Home Traditional Christmas” program at Sequoyah High School’s old gym in Tahlequah, 17091 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, call (918) 207-4900.
The fourth week in December counts down to Christmas. Tuesday, Dec. 24, Cookson United Methodist Church will host a Christmas Eve three candlelight services 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Address is 21685 W. Cookson Bend Road.