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36 Years of Bellefonte Victorian Christmas: 7 Questions for BVC Co-Chairwoman, Sally Houser


Downtown Bellefonte Bellefonte, Pennsylvania 16823


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By Serge Bielanko

Bellefonte Victorian Celebration is 36 years old this year! That's remarkable. Why do you think BVC is such a success?

No matter whether you are a lifelong resident, a transplant, or a visitor to the Bellefonte community, you automatically fall in love with the rich architecture and history as you walk the streets and visit the museums and shop the unique shops downtown. You want to learn where all of this charm comes from, you want to soak up the history.


With so much unique history here, this year's guided bus tour of the of the town seems like the ideal was to get a good feel for our past. What can people expect when they to come aboard?

The Bellefonte Woman's Club has worked very hard over the past year to come up with a guided tour giving you a taste of the rich history of the community's influence on Centre County, the state, and the nation. The Bellefonte Woman’s Club invites and welcomes you to join them during this year’s Victorian Christmas event to travel back in time on a Guided Tour that includes two historic homes. You may have the pleasure of meeting citizens from the past to enlighten you with their unique life stories and contributions to Bellefonte.


You mention these tours are made possible by the Bellefonte Women's Club. What does the club play in our community?

This year will be the 107th year of the Bellefonte Woman’s Club (BWC). Through the years the BWC has actively supported the Centre County Library & Historical Museum, which houses a collection of historical material about our ancestors in the County and general information about the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the “Pennsylvania Room”. Club activities have blossomed over the years through selling pecans, note cards, and Christmas wrapping paper. The Homes Tour is the club’s signature fundraising Spring event that became part of the Bellefonte Victorian Christmas Celebration in 1998. It's become the glue that continues to hold the BWC together and gives every member the opportunity to participate: from being a hostess in one of the homes on tour to coordinating and selling tickets in the community and at each home on tour day. BWC fundraising goes right back into the community through community based outreach programs and scholarships to graduating seniors. One of their centers of focus is literacy through financially supporting the Centre County Library reading programs, Bellefonte Area School District's Bellefonte Reads program. In recent years they have also seen that Little Free Librarys(LFL) were made and distributed throughout the community.


There are no shortage of knowledgeable amateur historians in the Bellefonte area. How did you choose the Hosts and Hostesses who will be guiding the bus tours?

The Tour Committee actually drew on those that we know are established knowledgeable historians. They, along with chairwoman, Mary Kay Justice, spent many long hours developing a script for the Hosts and Hostesses that will be used on all tours. So the historic information is as accurate as possible and is the same information for each tour.


Has it ever snowed during Victorian Christmas? If so, did it add to the charm?

The event has definitely has seen snow, but in it's 36 years it has only been canceled once, which was actually due to an ice storm. The snow does add to the ambiance of the event; in 2013 we had snow all weekend, but people still came, stayed locally, and walked all around town to enjoy the venues. In fact we had 90 reservations for the family Dinner with Dickens & Company and we had 86 attend. Some of the folks walked to it in the snow.


Some parents may think that a Victorian Christmas celebration doesn't offer much for kids, but that isn't true! Can you tell us what children can experience and participate in if they visit?

The event has become a lasting family tradition for generations and children have always been an integral part of event. Opening Ceremony Friday evening is all about kids. Most of the choirs are children and youth from our areas schools. There is Breakfast with Santa on Saturday morning. There are Children's Teas on Saturday and Sunday at the The Little House, located directly behind the Centre County Historical Museum. The Centre County Library and Historical Museum have all kinds of activities for kids. There's carriage rides, concerts, and of course Santa is in his house all weekend long. Kids also participate in the Gingerbread House Contest. All the houses they create are displayed at the Diamond Deli in December. And children are also welcome on the bus tour.


When a town like Bellefonte is transformed to a bygone era as it is during Victorian Christmas, real holiday magic seems quite possible. As Co-Chairwoman of the entire event, do you ever stand on the street during the celebration and feel as if you've traveled back in time?

As Committee members, my husband and I walk the town in our period dress visiting the different venues and greeting visitors in the street. We do feel as if we have traveled back in time. So many visitors come in period dress and add to the ambiance of the event. Those we greet often ask us to have their picture taken with us, giving them that feeling of stepping back in time.


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