Vermilion County Museum open for the holidays

Vermilion County Museum open for the holidays

DANVILLE – The Vermilion County Museum will open the doors to its Gilbert Street complex buildings to celebrate the holidays on Saturday.

The museum and the Fithian Home, where Abraham Lincoln is known to have spent the night and gave a speech from its balcony, will be open to the public for the free "Holiday at the Museum" event. The celebration combines holiday decorations; choral, dance, magical and historical entertainment; a wagon ride; photos with Santa; and light refreshments from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

In the Fithian Home, costumed characters from Vermilion County history will share stories from the past, both real and humorous guesses. The cast of characters includes Sonny Downing as Joseph B. (Uncle Joe) Cannon, Kathy Darding as Mrs. Feldkamp, Larry and Rhea Weatherford as Mr. and Mrs. Holloway, Julia Megan Sullivan as Josephine Fithian, Becky Burgoyne as Mrs. Barkley, Marilyn Blanton as the upstairs maid, Beverlie Pippenger as the nanny and Sue Richter as the cook/housekeeper.

Darding, who worked at the museum at one time, takes on the role of Amelia Feldkamp. Mrs. Feldkamp and her husband owned the house after the Fithians, from around 1890 to the 1940s.

"I love doing anything in that house. I don't have to have a script. I think they just expect me to tell about the history of the house and I don't need a script to do that," Darding joked.

Darding said she is planning to wear a dress from the 1940s.

"It has a history too. It's my grandmother's dress that she wore to my parents' wedding," Darding said. "It's black with pink ballerinas. I'd forgotten that it's sleeveless, so I'll also wear Mrs. Cannon's shawl. Not a bad job to be draped in history."

Darding said she still gets a chill when she enters the bedroom where Lincoln slept.

Members of the Danville Light Opera will perform carols in the parlor.

From 1:30 to 4 p.m., visitors can go outside and tour the neighborhood by wagon on a first come, first served basis.

At the museum building, Santa Claus will greet visitors at the 1930s era street scene and cameras are welcome. Punch, hot cider and cookies will be served along with small treats for children.

Ken and Mona Hunter will display their collection of wooden old-fashioned toys. Live entertainment in the museum's atrium includes Faye's Dance Company by Jodi at 2 p.m., the music of Four on the Floor barbershop quartet and the magic of Christopher Bontjes at 3:30 p.m.

"We really enjoy opening the buildings to the public this time of year," said Richter, the museum director. "They are beautifully decorated and it's just a wonderful time for the whole family."

Richter said most programs at the museum seem to cater to either adults or children, but this event has something for all ages.

"People love having their picture taken with Santa at the Danville street scene. One family even used it for the following year's Christmas card," Richter said.

The event is sponsored by Aqua Illinois, First Midwest Bank, Old National Insurance and United Community Bank of Oakwood/Danville.

The museum lampposts are decorated by Berry's Garden Center and floral arrangements are contributed by the Petal Pushers Study Group of the Danville Garden Club.

There is no admission to either building for this event. For information, call the museum office at 442-2922.

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