By Morgan Bryce
and Ann Cipperly
Thousands of people are expected to walk, drive and ride through Opelika’s Northside Historic District for the 26th annual “Victorian Front Porch Christmas Tour,” which lasts from Dec. 11 to 15.
A tradition started in 1993 by former Opelika artist and resident Jan Jones, the event has blossomed into one of the Southeast’s most-beloved Christmas traditions and tourism events, according to publications like Better Homes and Gardens and Southern Living.
While the tour includes live Christmas music performances and refreshments, the main attraction is the 90 figurines decorating the front porches of 60 homes in the historic district, figurines that not only help spread holiday cheer but create lasting memories according to Tour Director Roger Bell.
“It’s still the same excitement as the very first day (that I got involved). The thing that is so amazing to me is the (large) turnout we seem to have every year,” Bell said. “It’s become a tradition for so many people and it’s a part of their Christmas celebrations. They bring their kids and take photographs … which is something that has expanded to multiple generations of families who come to this.”
Last year’s adverse conditions couldn’t prevent another large crowd from attending, but Bell said many of the groups that normally perform are being moved inside Trinity United Methodist Church. Non-instrumental caroler or choral groups will still perform on the porches of homes that are part of the tour.
Visitors can drive through the tour on Dec. 11, 12, 13 and 15 (MB needs to verify these dates). Weather permitting, the night of the walking tour on Dec. 14 will kick off with a tree-lighting ceremony led by Mayor Gary Fuller. A full schedule of events, refreshments and stops along the tour will be available on the event’s website, www.opelikavictorianfrontporchtour.com.
On Dec. 13, visitors can enjoy the family-friendly Christmas in a Railroad Town event and hitch a trolley or wagon ride through the tour.
New to this year’s event is horse-drawn carriage rides from the Trinity United Methodist parking lot and embark on the tour. Tickets for the ride will cost $10 per individual and can be purchased online through ww.eventbrite.com. Proceeds will benefit the Lewis Cooper Jr. Memorial Library.
“To me, this is event is what Christmas is all about. When you see the smiling, glowing, beaming faces of the children and the parents are oohing and aahing, it’s just a special, special sight to see,” Bell added.
Bell, along with other business, groups and individuals, volunteer to coordinate this event each year. Those interested in donating to help cover costs and help with figurine upkeep can donate to an ongoing GoFundMe through the event website under the “contact tab.”
Figurines will be delivered on Dec. 8, set-up on Dec. 10 and picked up again Dec. 16 after the tour’s conclusion.
Victorian Front Porch Christmas Tour Entertainment
6 p.m. Welcome Mayor Gary Fuller Trinity United Methodist – Tree Lighting – Sanctuary 800 2nd Ave.
6:15 p.m. TUMC Choir TUMC – Sanctuary – 800 2nd Ave.
6:45 p.m. AU Jazz Group – Outside TUMC- Outside – 800 2nd Ave.
6 to 7:30 p.m. Lew Scharpf – Pianist Brownfield House – 611 N. 8th St.
6:10 p.m. Trinity Youth Singers TUMC-Sanctuary – 800 2nd Ave.
6:15 p.m. Opelika High School Suhling Home – Choral Department 304 N. 8th St.
6:30 p.m. AUMC Jingle Bells Jane Home – 410 N. 8th St.
6:30 p.m. OUMC Jingle Bells Varner Home – 302 N 9th St.
6:15 p.m. Lee-Scott Jazz Band TUMC – Fellowship Hall – 800 2nd Ave.
6:30 p.m. Southview, Carver, Jeter TUMC – Sanctuary – Singers 800 2nd Ave.
6:30 to 8:30 p.m. – Chuck Arney Celtic Instruments – Rajan Lot 4th Ave. and North 9th St.
6:50 p.m. Northside, West Forest TUMC – Sanctuary – Singers 800 2nd Avenue.
7:10 p.m. Morris Avenue Singers TUMC – Sanctuary – 800 2nd Ave.
7:30 p.m. Plains Woodwind Trio Brownfield House – 611 N. 8th St.
7:30 p.m. AU Jazz Sax Group Bell Home – 605 N. 8th St.
7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Auburn Knights TUMC-Fellowship Hall – 800 2nd Ave.
Trinity United Methodist Church will be open for touring, musical programs and refreshments , while the First Presbyterian will be open for fellowship and refreshments. Wassail and cookies will be served at the Brownfield House.