In its 36th year, Bellefonte Victorian Christmas added a new feature — a guided bus tour that led riders throughout Bellefonte on Saturday and ended with a tour of two historic homes.
Mary Kay Justice, chair of History on Wheels, organized the event, which was previously limited to a walking tour. The guided bus tour combined the walking and homes tours into one event.
“We like this idea because we’re going to promote the characters and the people to make them more real. Bellefonte has survived and many Victorian communities have not. The difference is the people on the bus,” Justice said.
Justice added that the idea was sparked on a visit to Buffalo, N.Y. There was an 85-acre cemetery that allowed people to take a ride through the cemetery and featured stories and characters of those in the cemetery.
“I thought, ‘Bellefonte has that rich history. We have a lot of stories to tell,’ ” Justice said.
After Justice developed the idea, she turned to Sally Houser, one of the four co-chairwoman of Bellefonte Victorian Christmas, in order to make the event a reality. Houser has been involved with the festivities for the past 10 years.
“When I first took over, it was the same Victorian Christmas that it had always been, which was wonderful, but we wanted to grow it and we wanted to get people from outside to the county to come to it. We want to keep it fresh and this is a wonderful new idea,” Houser said.
Houser was also proud that the Bellefonte Victorian Christmas was heading into its 36th year, which she said was a long time for a local event.
“Usually once they get past 25 years they start to dwindle off a little bit, but here, we’re so enthusiastic about our history that is just continues to grow,” Houser said.
Molly Tomlin, from Phoenix, was one of the more than 30 people on the first guided bus tour. Similar to what Houser said about the growth of Bellefonte Victorian Christmas, the area’s rich history is what Tomlin said drove her to sign up for the 90-minute tour.
“I’m a history buff and I’m eager to learn more about the history of the area,” Tomlin said.
In addition to the bus tour, there was a festival of trees, an arts and crafts sale, museum tours, horse-drawn carriage rides, the Brian Belge Dickens Troupe and more throughout the three-day celebration. Bellefonte Victorian Christmas comes to a close Sunday.