Conner Prairie’s Inaugural Event Is the New Home of the Reynolds Farm Christmas Lights
Photography provided by Conner Prairie & Amy Payne
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and Conner Prairie hopes to make this Christmas season even more wonderful for families across Hamilton County. The inaugural “A Merry Prairie Holiday” event officially started on November 29 and will continue through December 31.
The new holiday festival has something for everyone, but perhaps the biggest news of the event is the inclusion of the popular Reynolds Farm Christmas Lights display. Back in July, it was announced that the iconic light display was gifted to Conner Prairie for its new winter experience.
“Our Christmas light display was born out my father’s love for Christmas and our community,” said Gary Reynolds, owner and chairman of Reynolds Farm Equipment, in a July statement. “Transitioning our Christmas lights display to Conner Prairie ensures this tradition of celebrating Christmas with lights continues as part of Conner Prairie’s new A Merry Prairie Holiday festival.”
Norman Burns, President and CEO at Conner Prairie, is excited to include the light display and bring a new tradition to Hamilton County.
“Winter is always a special time at Conner Prairie thanks to our 40-year plus tradition of holiday festivities,” Burns says. “This year, it will be even more so as we bring new experiences to the holiday season and carry on a time-honored family tradition by displaying the Reynolds Christmas lights, donated by Gary Reynolds and his family, across the grounds as part of the new A Merry Prairie Holiday Festival.”
In the past, it wasn’t uncommon to see cars lined up all the way back onto State Road 37 for the drive-thru light display. This year, the display is set up across Conner Prairie’s grounds for visitors to walk through and experience.
“We are incredibly excited to have the Reynolds Christmas lights this year,” says Chris Petrelli, Senior Director of Museum Experiences at Conner Prairie. “They were extremely generous in donating that incredible display. It is a major tradition for everyone in Hamilton County. We are humbled and honored to take the baton and keep this beloved tradition going. We spent a lot of time running extension cords and placing the lights. People will be able to get a new perspective on the display. It’s going to be great to see the lights spread out across our grounds.”
A Merry Prairie Holiday will include much more than just the Reynolds Christmas Lights. The festival is jam-packed with family-friendly events like the North Pole Village — complete with a toy workshop to make holiday gifts, a Polar Bear Plunge dry snow tubing hill, Reindeer Games Midway, Claus’ Cabin, where kids can meet Mrs. Claus and drop their letters off to Santa, and the Kringle’s Carousel ride.
Local entertainers and musicians will perform throughout each night on the “Blitzen’s Bandstand,” too.
History buffs will appreciate a walk through Prairietown, which includes the 1860s Hoosier Homefront and Soldiers Camp to learn how the season was celebrated during the time of the Civil War. The classic Conner Prairie by Candlelight favorites, like Dr. Campbell’s Soiree, is included as well as a live reading from Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” with the sounds of Christmas carolers.
“The great thing about this festival is we have planned it to be a two-hour experience,” Petrelli says. “Not only do you get to experience the Christmas lights but all of these events, too. It really has a variety of experiences that the entire family will enjoy.”
The festival will also include a Winterland Wagon Ride. The ride will take guests across the historic grounds and through thousands of the Christmas lights.
“I have an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old, and I’m excited about the wagon ride and the Prairietown experience,” Petrelli adds. “I think the tubing hill and the carousel will also be big crowd-pleasers.”
Unlike the popular Headless Horseman Halloween event, A Merry Prairie Holiday will not have any time ticketed rides or events. Instead, all of the events, like the Winterland Wagon Ride, the Kringle’s Carousel and the Polar Bear Plunge, will all be first come, first served. Petrelli stresses that there shouldn’t be much of a need for families and visitors to show up extremely early before gates open for the event.
A Merry Prairie Holiday is an outdoor festival. Even though the colder weather is upon us, Petrelli urges families not to be deterred from visiting, even on some of the more chilly evenings.
“Obviously, people should bundle up, but I want to reassure people that we have opportunities for you to stay warm, too,” he says. “Our welcome center, store and more will be open for people to come inside if they get too cold. We will also have several fire pits going and plenty of hot-chocolate stands throughout the grounds. So, don’t fear the cold too much.”
A Merry Prairie Holiday will be held Friday through Sunday evenings from 6 to 10 p.m. Advance tickets are $16 per guest and $8 per member. Tickets purchased at the gate will be $20 per guest or $10 per member. For more information and to purchase advance tickets, visit them online at connerprairie.org.
The festival will wrap up on Dec. 31 with a special early fireworks display at 9 p.m. to celebrate the New Year.
Conner Prairie is located at 13400 Allisonville Road in Fishers. You can give them a call at 317-776-6000.