They partied like it’s 1855.
No jockeying for a parking space at the mall. No hyped-up “Jingle Bells” blaring from loudspeakers. Just the sweet sounds of a hammered dulcimer, a Percheron snorting in the misty air and Belsnickel quietly asking children to answer questions.
Yes, Belsnickel — a key feature at Saturday’s Christmas celebration at Missouri Town 1855. Bewhiskered and rough-clad in brown, this Christmas spirit of Alpine heritage leaned toward 8-year-old Rylea Harvkey and asked, “Did you make your bed this morning?”
Prompted by her grandfather James Klemenz, Rylea nodded yes and, because she was good, was rewarded with the chance to reach into Belsnickel’s red cloth bag and pull out a candy cane, a simple reminder that gifts of Christmases past didn’t need batteries.
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Jay Clasen, a south Kansas City resident and frequent volunteer at Jackson County’s re-created historical settlement near Lake Jacomo, was happy to be part of the annual celebration. This year, Clasen said, he didn’t need long johns under his Belsnickel costume.
“It’s a very good crowd, and compared to some years, the weather is stupendous,” Clasen said.
This year’s Christmas Celebration at Missouri Town was likely to attract 800 to 900 visitors by day’s end, a far better turnout than last year, when icy weather forced cancellation. This year, family, church and school groups, many with tots in strollers, walked among the 25 restored structures that simulate a 160-year-old community.
In the village tavern, visitors sipped warm “friendship tea” in a structure re-created from an establishment that once stood in what’s now Kansas City north of the Missouri River. Like most of Missouri Town’s structures, it was reconstructed piece by piece.
A couple dozen volunteers dressed in period costumes added authenticity to the 65-acre site, which first opened to visitors in 1965. Some sang carols and played instruments in keeping with the period. Some, organized as the Missouri Town Dancers, put on two shows during the day.
Missouri Town 1855’s Christmas observance, a one-day-only event, is one of Jackson County’s traditional holiday offerings. The county also presents “Christmas in the Park,” a drive-through display of holiday lights at Longview Lake Park each evening after dark through Dec. 31.