Local News

COVID-19 Grinch Steals Christmas at Pioneer Land

(La Porte, IN) - Christmas might not be the same this year especially for people whose taste for pioneer life during the holidays has become a family tradition.


The 23rd annual Christmas at Pioneer Land scheduled Saturday and Sunday at the LaPorte County fairgrounds has been cancelled because of COVID-19.   


Dick Reel, who’s in charge of organizing the free event, said the upsurge in coronavirus cases was the driving factor behind the decision.


He said it would be difficult to social distance in more than a dozen mostly small 1800’s style buildings when 7,000 people showed up for both days last year.


Reel also said most of the volunteers working the village being older are at higher risk to the virus.


“A lot of our volunteers didn’t think they wanted to come,” he said.


The thought of children visiting an old fashioned Santa Claus from behind a plexiglass shield was also frowned upon.


“We really had no alternative.  It was kind of a letdown for all of us.  We’re sure missing it,” he said.


Reel said only about 300 people showed up for the first Christmas at Pioneer Land.


Now, Reel said they come from as far away as Chicago, near Ft. Wayne and into Michigan.


Buildings strung with lights is about the only modern luxury allowed for the event featuring Christmas trees decorated with paper ornaments and popcorn strings.


Cookies made from vintage ingredients and hot cider from a kettle above an open flame in the fireplace of the log cabin is included in the experience.


Also popular are horse drawn wagon rides and workers in the blacksmith shop bending

hot metal into nails and products shaped like candy canes.


Lois Clark, a longtime volunteer in the Quilters’ Cabin, said hearing the laughter by folks relishing the experience and seeing children with their parents and grandparents are among the things she’ll miss the most.


Live music from the time period will also leave her with a hole to fill.


Normally, Clark would be going to Pioneer Land this week to help set up for the event worked by about 60 volunteers.


“I miss it horribly. It’s been such a part of our lives to begin the holidays,” she said.

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