A Mahoning Valley tradition more than 20 years old returns today, as thousands gather to celebrate an Olde Fashioned Christmas at the Mill.
Mill Creek MetroParks staff and volunteers spent hours this week decorating Lanterman’s Mill, 980 Canfield Road, in festive pine garlands and red bows.
But planning begins much earlier with the recruitment of vendors who will demonstrate and sell historical crafts, such as candle making, wood-spoon carving and weaving.
“Back in the summer, we start coordinating our vendors and entertainment,” said Carol Vigorito, a naturalist at the Ford Nature Center who organizes special events at the MetroParks.
Jugglers, harpists and bagpipers are slated to perform, and Santa Claus will make an appearance. Local history also will be on display with an exhibit from the Arms Family Museum.
Those who want to walk off some of their Thanksgiving feast — and the leftovers — can meet a naturalist at 2 p.m. Sunday to hike from Scholl Pavilion to the mill and back to the pavilion, which is located near the intersection of Bears Den Road and Normandy Drive.
The free festivities begin at 11 a.m. today and Sunday and end at 5 p.m. both days. Last year, the event drew about 6,000 people.
“It’s a tradition. A lot of people bring their out-of-town family and friends here to kick off the shopping season,” said Linda Kostka, MetroParks marketing director.
Plus, even though the outside decorations will remain on the mill through New Year’s Day, this is the last weekend the mill will be open this season, she said. The mill reopens in April.
About 30 volunteers worked to deck out the mill, which was built in 1845 by German Lanterman and Samuel Kimberly. Restoration work funded by the Ward and Florence Beecher Foundations was completed in 1985 and since then, the Christmas celebration has been an annual park event.
“People love seeing the mill decorated in its finery,” Vigorito said.
As volunteers readied the mill with swags of pine garland and decorated two trees donated by Pioneer Tree Farms in Poland, another group was busy making wreaths for the mill at Fellows Riverside Gardens. Much of the pine was gathered from regular trimmings and pruning in the park.
Kostka said the mill will have all things holiday-related, including a chance to give to others. Attendees can bring a hat, scarf or pair of mittens to decorate a “Giving Tree,” and all items will be donated to Mahoning County children in need.
And, of course, there will be chestnuts roasting on an open fire.