HANNIBAL — Downtown Hannibal is transforming into a Victorian-inspired wonderland for Christmas, and the festivities begin Saturday, Nov. 30, with a variety of events along historic Main and Hill streets.
Throughout the day, local business will have entertainment and activities planned for Small Business Saturday, including a candy cane hunt from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The evening will culminate with the annual Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum Tree Lighting Ceremony following the old-fashioned Mark Twain Birthday Party at the Mark Twain Museum.
Open Door Studio will host an ornament painting party from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and pianist Ned Behrensmeyer will perform at Java Jive. Chocolaterie Stam will host free wine tasting from 1-3 p.m.
Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Gail Bryant said the first-ever candy cane hunt each week of the Victorian Festival of Christmas will join the first Christmas Extravaganza, which allows participants to purchase a passport giving them the choice of five gifts from select downtown businesses. She said the varied lineup of events included the $99 or Less Art Sale at the Hannibal Arts Council and visits to take pictures with Santa at the Santa Claus House at Hill and Main Streets from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Hannibal is known for its events, and this is a very special time of the year to showcase downtown and all of the lights and all of the festivities,” she said. Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum Director of Marketing and Community Relations Melissa Cummins said the Victorian Festival of Christmas coincides with Mark Twain's Annual Birthday Bash and the 184th Birthday Party will be hosted by Tom and Becky Ambassadors from 1-3 p.m. at the Mark Twain Museum. The free event allows children accompanied by an adult to enjoy crafts, cupcakes and old-fashioned games. If they wish, they can use recycled and natural materials to create ornaments to decorate the community Christmas tree that will be officially illuminated during the evening's annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. that evening.
“I think that will be wonderful for kids to have that opportunity to create something and to share it with the whole town for a special holiday like that,” Cummins said.
Cummins said the fifth annual mustache contest will donate all proceeds to the James E. Cary Cancer Center, and a $5 entry fee provides participants with entry in one of three categories: dapper 'stache, manliest 'stache or Mark Twain look-alike 'stache. She said the winner in each category will win a $50 gift certificate from the Hannibal Area and Chamber of Commerce and a free beard and mustache trim from event sponsor Schmidt and White Barbershop.
Cummins and Bryant recommended that children and adults make sure to come to the stage on Hill St. for the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony from 5 to 6 p.m. later in the evening. The Salvation Army brass band will perform, Santa Claus and Mark Twain will make appearances and the Tom and Becky Ambassadors will lead the crowd in the singing traditional Christmas carols. The enormous tree was donated by The Branch Ranch Christmas Tree Farm, and Cummins said Board of Public Works crew members put the tree in place, with Parks and Recreation Department crews installing the lights. The countdown for the lighting of the tree and the nearby gardens will begin at dusk.
Bryant said the Victorian Festival will continue all season long, with events like the Hannibal Jaycees Christmas Parade on Saturday, Dec. 7, The Festival of Living Windows and the world's largest dessert party in one location — the “cupcake challenge” for Hannibal's bicentennial on Saturday, Dec. 14. Cummins said the beginning of the Victorian Festival of Christmas also kicks off the beginning of the gingerbread house contest for children and adults, which will run through Dec. 11 and display the entries during the Living Windows event.
“I think it's wonderful to bring people together and experience the holidays in more of a giving attitude and a sharing attitude with everyone,” Cummins said. “Involving the community is one of the main things we're trying to do.”