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Holiday Fest hopes for a wider audience

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GREENFIELD — With Thanksgiving behind us, it’s officially the start of the Christmas season in Greenfield, and city organizers are wasting no time making it known.

Christmas banners have already been hung downtown, and starting next week, the street department will begin decking the city’s proverbial halls.

Street superintendent Jim Hahn said he’s already pulled some employees off of leaf pick-up duty to begin dusting off decorations and checking thousands of twinkling Christmas lights.

“You know how it goes; if one (bulb) doesn’t work, none of them do,” Hahn said.

The department will kick preparations into high gear starting Monday in hopes of getting everything up in time for the city’s annual Christmas Festival, to be held Dec. 7 and 8.

The festival is under new management this year, after Greenfield Main Street handed it off to the Riley Festival.

Festival officials have already swung into action, hoping to polish the holiday tradition to make it bigger and better.

“The Riley Festival is pretty adept at carrying on a festival, so we’re just humming right along,” said Sarah Kesterson, Riley Festival board member and Christmas Festival liaison.  

Many of the 8-year-old festival’s mainstays – open fire pits on the courthouse plaza; caroling; lighting of the tree; Santa’s house; and the live nativity scene – will be back. The Riley Festival board is also looking to add some new touches to help strengthen the event.

“Since the Riley Festival took over this year, we’re not going completely wild and mad,” Kesterson said. “We’ll let it grow with us.”

New this year, area churches will be open during the festival to offer tours of their sanctuaries, decorated for the holidays. Kesterson said she hopes it will help festival-goers get into the holiday spirit and demonstrate the beauty of downtown.

“Nothing is really prettier than a church all candlelit for the Christmas event,” she said.

Also new this year, festival organizers are focusing more heavily on advertising and publicity. Kesterson said they are seeking to increase attendance, as well as participation in portions of the event like the parade, window-decorating contest and the number of vendors in the retail area known as “Santa’s Workshop.” Marketing materials are also focusing on nearby areas, like Shelbyville and Rushville, to try and draw in visitors from neighboring communities.

“People won’t come to it unless they know about it,” Kesterson said.

Also coming back this year is the Christmas dinner at the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen. Festival-goers can enjoy a hot meal from 5 to 7 p.m. during the festival Dec. 7 for a free-will donation, which will support the soup kitchen. 

The popular Breakfast with Santa will return to just one seating this year, from 8 to 10 a.m. Dec. 8 Ticket prices have been lowered this year, to $7 for children and $10 for adults. Kesterson said there are seats for as many as 300, and tickets should be purchased ahead of time from the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Mueller Auto Body and Glass Shop, Posey Shack, Touch of Home or the New Palestine Press.

For those wishing to continue to the Christmas revelry, the Riley Home’s annual Christmas celebration will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 8. Visitors can experience a Christmas as Greenfield’s famous son would have, with storytellers in period costumes and music of the era. The 45-minute tours start every 30 minutes; tickets are $4 for adults and $1.25 for children.


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