The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

December 1, 2012

Bringing ‘small-town flavor’ to the holidays

Victorian Stroll showcases architecture, history of downtown square

ALBIA — Holiday traditions will come to life in Albia’s 21st annual Victorian Stroll today and tonight.

The event, which features live window scenes, carolers in the streets, stores and courthouse and activities throughout the square, gives hundreds a chance to get in the holiday spirit the first weekend of December every year.

“You feel like you’ve stepped back in time because the whole community wanders the square dressed in costume and the people in the windows are in costume, as well,” said Albia Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Deborah Morgan.

Catherine Burkman, chairperson for the stroll, said there will be more than 35 live windows on the downtown square during the two-hour stroll tonight.

“It’s showcasing our Victorian architecture on our restored buildings,” Burkman said. “The commercial district decided it needed a winter celebration and we worked hard at getting the people in to do live displays on all the store fronts.”

Since it’s a very weather-oriented event, Burkman is thankful for the warm forecast for the weekend. She expects the event could draw in anywhere from 500 to 700 people.

“It’s the whole community coming together to get people to enjoy and celebrate,” she said.

Kids won’t be left out of the fun, either. This morning offers lots of activities for the young strollers, from breakfast with Santa to watching “The Polar Express” at the theater to a puppet show.

“We try to have something for everyone,” Burkman said. “We enjoy people coming to town early, taking part in the restaurants we have and shopping downtown.”

The event is a great way to promote Albia and its commercial district, she said.

“Small town flavor goes a long way in today’s busy lifestyle,” she said. “It’s very much a step back in time, to enjoy friendship and the friendliness that we offer. We’re pretty unique up here. We have a lot of extremely nice people and great volunteers that just enjoy meeting new people and reacquainting with friends.”

The Tour of Homes event was revived this year after not being featured at the stroll for around five years. Visitors can walk through two historic homes: The Kendall Place, former Iowa Gov. Nathan Kendall’s home, and the Victorian mansion now owned by Kim and Jeanne Howie.

“It’s a nice way to learn some history and to observe the beautiful historic value of those Victorian homes,” Burkman said. “We decided to bring it back to see if people are interested.”

One big draw is the Festival of Trees at the Chamber office. Burkman said 23 trees will be on display this year, all with various themes. Visitors can vote for their favorite tree, as well as participate in a silent auction on items such as jewelry, Honey Creek Resort night stays and handmade quilts, the proceeds from which will benefit the Victorian Stroll.

“One of our main attractions is a huge garden train in the Dept. 56 village display at First Iowa State Bank,” Burkman said. “It really brings in a lot of people.”

Visitors will also be able to enjoy carriage rides, the all new LED lighting on the buildings, homemade treats, quilt show and more.

“We’ve also put together a Victorian throw that features eight Victorian homes of Albia,” Burkman said. “Photos have been taken and woven into fabric that depicts all these beautiful Victorian homes. They make great Christmas gifts. And they were made in South Carolina, so I’m proud to say they were made in America.”

Each throw is $60 at the Chamber office. The proceeds benefit the new lighting project for downtown.

“And we always enjoy people in costume, whether they’re in a window or not,” she said. “We have a large inventory of vintage clothing. I bet we’ve outfitted ... well over 700 people.”

The committee made the majority of the clothing as well as buying inventory from a vintage clothing store that downsized.

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