FULTON, Ill. — Christmas is in the air, and in the canyon in Fulton, as the annual Christmas in the Canyon celebration kicks off the holiday season on Saturday.
Originally started by Harold and Thelma Wierenga, the Christmas in the Canyon tradition is a way for Heritage Canyon volunteers to say thank you to the community that continually supports their vision.
“The Crafters have been here for over 30 years,” Heritage Canyon caretaker Brian Tomman said. “It’s just a thank you, to give back to everybody who comes here.”
The free event will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, offering guests free hot cocoa and warm apple cider while members of the Early American Crafters sing Christmas carols and read classic Christmas stories in the canyon’s white church.
After a short break, Tomman and the crafters invite everyone back to the canyon at 6 p.m. for the annual Christmas walk, illuminated by kerosene lanterns.
“We’ll turn off all the electric to the buildings and everything will be lit with traditional lanterns and heated with woodburners to give a really historic feeling to the canyon,” Tomman said.
To provide convenience to guests interested in taking part in the illuminated walk, a shuttle bus will haul people from the Windmill Cultural Center in downtown Fulton to the canyon and back free of charge.
While visitors wait for the shuttle to arrive, the cultural center will be open to give relief from the cold and will be hosting a special woodcarving exhibit for people to enjoy.
As history has shown, colder weather typically prevents a strong turnout for the Christmas in the Canyon event but Tomman assures those who want to attend the annual event that there will be warming stations throughout the canyon.
“It’s kind of like all of our other events: the weather plays a big factor,” Tomman said. “But, the buildings all have woodburners in them, so there’s always a place for people to go to get warm.”
To provide the fuel for that heat, a local Boy Scout troop came out last Saturday to help the volunteers chop wood to keep the fires burning strong the whole night.
But, the Boy Scouts were not the only ones to help prepare the canyon for the Christmas celebration. Girl Scouts also came out last Saturday to help hang holiday decorations all around the Christmas canyon.
“Last Saturday we had the Early American Crafters, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and other volunteers that came to decorate,” Tomman said. “It’s tradition anymore to have them come out and help.”
Another holiday tradition for Christmas in the Canyon is a special visit from Santa Claus himself.
Tomman encourages everyone to brave the cold and come out to enjoy a holiday classic and join the many people of Heritage Canyon to ring in the Christmas season.