Holiday fun and activities are returning full swing next week in downtown Indiana, a year after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down gatherings with large groups of people.
The Lucy Donnelly Memorial Fund Holiday Kickoff Parade and Light-Up Night is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 19, with plenty of activities for everyone.
The pandemic canceled the 2020 festivities, leading to a virtual parade and the lighting of the tree without throngs of people to watch.
Not this year. Visitors will be able to view the lighting of a 32-foot live tree, which will take place at 6 p.m. in the IRMC Park section of North Seventh Street prior to the parade.
“It was what we did two years ago and it worked out well,” said event organizer Hastie Kinter.
The parade, presented by the Lucy Donnelly Memorial Fund, begins at 7 p.m. along Philadelphia Street between 11th and Fifth streets and will end with Santa’s arrival.
Kinter said organizers are anticipating a large turnout.
“We are hoping to have the large crowd we had in the past,” she said, but added that they are “encouraging people to spread out so they can be safe.”
“Big events have been held like this, so we’re hoping that it’s a safe event for everybody,” Kinter said. “We’re working with the police and the borough and trying to go by all the guidelines that have been set.”
She said organizers are encouraging people to go to the areas between 11th and 10th streets and between Fifth and Sixth streets to watch the parade rather than amassing at Seventh and Philadelphia.
One change this year is that there won’t be crafts, Kinter said. “We’re trying to have all outdoor activities,” she said. Between 5 and 7 p.m. at IRMC Park, visitors can enjoy hay rides provided by Don Huey, train rides for kids by Mytrysak Family Tree Farm, marshmallow-roasting, and free hot chocolate and Eat’n Park Smiley cookies.
The Indiana Junior High Spirit Band will perform at 5:30 p.m.
At the Jimmy Stewart Museum, 835 Philadelphia St., showings of the documentary “The Making of It’s A Wonderful Life” will be screened at 4:30 and 5 p.m., and the gift shop will be open, with no admission fee. Throughout the evening, First Commonwealth Bank will give away winter scarves and hot chocolate, S&T Bank will be serving fresh popcorn and distributing glow necklaces, and Diamond Drug will provide free hot dogs.
For five weekends beginning Nov. 20, the First Commonwealth Bank “It’s a Wonderful Life” Celebration in Downtown Indiana will be held. Sponsored by First Commonwealth Bank, Christmas Village huts and kiosks will be set up at IRMC Park, where visitors can view the Christmas tree and vintage light displays situated throughout the downtown area, and kids can visit with Santa from noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 19. You also can vote for your favorite Christmas tree at the Atrium on Philadelphia Street; the winner will be announced Dec. 17.
Christmas caroling and marshmallow roasting will take place at IRMC Park on Wednesday, Dec. 15.
Seventh Street from IRMC Park to Nixon Avenue will be closed beginning Monday to start setting up, and will remain closed for the five weekends of activities.
The tree, a 32-foot concolor fir donated by local tree grower Musser Forests Inc., is scheduled to arrive Monday.
Other events happening throughout the season:
• Friday through Sunday in the Smicksburg community: Smicksburg Old Fashioned Country Christmas Open House
• Nov. 19 through Dec. 30: Jimmy Stewart Museum Presents “It’s a Wonderful Life” Movie & Holiday Display. See the expanded “It’s a Wonderful Life” 75th anniversary exhibit; festival of themed Christmas trees, for which you can vote for your favorite; “The Making of It’s a Wonderful Life,” shown at 10:30 a.m. every day; GE Theater’s “The Trail to Christmas,” shown at 11:30 a.m. daily; “It’s a Wonderful Life” matinee, shown at 1 p.m. daily; the Granville House/Doll House, fully furnished like the one from the film, standing at 3-foot-by-3-foot; LEGO recreation of the Granville House and a gift shop full of all things “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There is no fee to stop and shop.
• Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 19 through Dec. 19: Holiday Wheels and Thrills: A Model Train Display. The exhibit will be at the former RUE 21 location in the Indiana Mall and will include a variety of model train displays. Donations will be accepted for the Teddy Bear Fund Drive. There also will be a holiday quilt display by the Indiana, PA Quilter’s Club. Hours are 4 to 7 p.m. Fridays, except Nov. 25, which is 1 to 5 p.m.; noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays.
• Nov. 20-21: Christmas Open House at Dillweed B&B in Dilltown
• Nov. 26 through 28: Family Fun Weekend at Mytrysak Family Tree Farm in Indiana
• Nov. 26: Light Up Night in Clymer
• Nov. 27: Small Business Saturday in downtown Indiana and the Smicksburg community
• Dec. 2: Tinsel Time by the Evergreen Garden Club at the Rustic Lodge in White Township; tickets available at the tourist bureau
• Dec. 4: Smicksburg Cookie Tour in the Smicksburg community
• Dec. 4: Light Up Night in Blairsville, near the gazebo in town
• Dec. 4: Trees for Troops Day at Mytrysak Family Tree Farm & Greenhouse, Indiana
• Dec. 5: Light Up Night in Saltsburg, Canal Park
• Dec. 10: Homer City Light Up Night, Homer City Fire Hall
• Dec. 11: Wreaths for Indiana County Veterans, courthouse and cemeteries in Indiana County
• 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12: Sara Evans — Blue Christmas Tour at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex. Country entertainer Evans shares holiday cheer during this Christmas concert.
For tickets, call (724) 357-5222 or visit www.koval chickcomplex.com.