What To Do: Mushroom Drop, Mummers top New Year’s Eve

And for those still looking to get their Christmas on, many local events this weekend

By Denny DyroffStaff Writer, The Times


Chester County’s newest — and arguably already best-known — New Years Eve celebration is the Mushroom Drop, as part of Kennett Square’s Midnight in The Square celebration.

While New York may have its crystal ball, Key West, a giant shoe, and Philadelphia has fireworks and mummers, some might say Chester County has them all beat when it comes to New Year’s Eve celebrations: Kennett Square’s Mushroom Drop, featuring a an 8-foot-wide lit mushroom has gained national notoriety after a strong debut last year.

This year’s event, part of Midnight In The Square, looks to be even bigger and better.

And maybe the best news: the admission price is the donation of non-perishable or canned food to help feed local folks in need. That means you can have an amazing evening and do good.

The evening starts at 9 pm on New Years Eve, as local merchants, restaurants and gathering places will be open and ready for business, to welcome visitors from the local community and beyond. There will be live music from The Funsters, known for their wide range of music from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley to the Beach Boys covers, who will be on stage on West State Street to keep the party moving.

As the New Years Eve countdown draws ever closer, an 8 ft. tall, 500 lb., lighted (by VP Electrical Contracting, Inc.) stainless steel mushroom, constructed by M & P Custom Design, will be lowered 85 feet, landing in the Square precisely at the stroke of the New Year!

Parking is available at the Kennett High School parking lot and at the Exelon parking lot. Free shuttle buses will bring guests from these parking lots to Broad and State Street and return guests from this location to their cars after the Mushroom Drop.

The event is a joint venture of the Kennett Area Restaurant and Merchants Association and the Mushroom Festival, Inc. For information, check out the event Wesbite: midnightinthesquare.com.

The biggest attractions in the upcoming week are New Year’s Eve celebrations and special New Year’s Day activities.

For those interested in going a bit further afield, or looking for fun on the first day of 2015, there’s no shortage of options — even a fun way for the little ones to count in 2015, without staying up way past their bed time.

Countdown2NoonThe Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, the Brandywine Zoo in Wilmington, Delaware and the Garden State Discovery Museum in Cherry Hill, N.J. all offer special family-oriented matinee events to celebrate the start of a new year.

The Please Touch Museum (Memorial Hall, Fairmount Park, 4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, 215-581-3181, www.pleasetouchmuseum.org) will again host its traditional “Countdown to Noon.” Kids can ring in the New Year at noon with confetti and noisemakers.

Youngsters will be able to party with Alice, the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat at Philly’s original “New Year’s Eve Party for Kids.” Additionally, there will be live music performed by LOUIE from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission to the celebration is $20 per person.

The event in Wilmington, which is officially called “Noon Year’s Eve Celebration at Brandywine Zoo”, is a popular all-ages celebration that runs from 11 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. at the Brandywine Zoo (1001 North Park Drive, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-571-7747, www.brandywinezoo.org).

The mid-day party features a celebration with games, crafts and a countdown to 12 o’clock as noon approaches. And, there will be a sparkling apple cider toast when the clock strikes 12.

Admission is $6 and the gates open at 10 a.m. with check-in at the main admission gate. Most festivities will take place outdoors, so visitors are advised to dress for winter weather.

The Garden State Discovery Museum (2040 Springdale Road, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, 856-424-1233, www.discoverymuseum.com) is presenting a special program called “New Years at Noon” during the day on December 31.

Guests are invited to be the first to ring in the New Year — kids’ style. The entire Museum will be alive with singing and dancing and counting down to 2015. As an added attraction, the countdown celebrations will be held at noon and again at 3 p.m.

Additionally, the children-oriented museum in Cherry Hill presents a special program called “Passport to Discovery” on selected weekends in the winter along with a few special holiday-themed events.

garden state queen nur

The Garden State Discovery Museum is hosting an event titled “Kwanzaa Celebration with Queen Nur” on Dec. 26 and 28.

On December 26 and 28, the Garden State Discovery Museum is hosting an event titled “Kwanzaa Celebration with Queen Nur” from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. both days. Queen Nur is a nationally renowned storyteller and teaching artist who has performed in such venues as the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the Equity Theater on Broadway.

When Queen Nur offers her special presentation at the Garden State Discovery Museum, she will focus on the symbols and principles of the African-American tradition known as Kwanzaa with interactive storytelling and song.

Kwanzaa was created in 1966 as the first specifically African-American holiday. It is traditionally a week-long celebration that features seven core principles known as “Nguzo Saba” — unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.

Admission to the Garden State Discovery Museum is $12.95 for adults and children 12 months and over and $11.95 for seniors.

When evening arrives in the Philadelphia area on New Year’s Eve, it means that it is time for the annual fireworks event – a gala pyrotechnics display that explodes over the Delaware River.

The fireworks can be viewed from either Penn’s Landing on Delaware Avenue or Wiggins Park on the Camden side of the river. Traditionally, the aerial fireworks extravaganza took place at midnight. This year, there will again be a show at midnight and another fireworks display at 6 p.m. on December 31.

nye-fireworks philly

Fireworks will light up the skies over the Delaware River on New Years Eve, with many excellent options to enjoy the evening, and the show.

Both fireworks displays, which last approximately 15 minutes each, will be launched from a barge in the middle of the Delaware River and will be choreographed to music played through speakers at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing and at Wiggins Park in Camden.

A popular New Year’s Eve destination along the Delaware River to watch the fireworks is River Rink (Market Street and Delaware Avenue, 215-925-RINK, www.riverrink.com).

The rink will host its “21st Annual New Year’s Eve Party on Ice” not once but twice – from 5-8 p.m. and from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. The festive, non-alcoholic party with food, Mummers, party favors and live entertainment costs $40 for skaters and $30 for spectators.

Another riverside location to watch the show in the sky is the Independence Seaport Museum (211 S. Columbus Boulevard Philadelphia, 215-413-8655, www.phillyseaport.org) which will remain open late on New Year’s Eve for the 6 p.m. fireworks.

Guests can observe the fireworks from the second floor balcony overlooking the river. The event, which features music and a sparkling cider toast at 6 p.m., is included with regular admission – adults, $13.50; seniors, children, college students, military, $10.

On the other side of the Delaware River, a prime viewing location will be the Battleship New Jersey (62 Battleship Place, Camden, N.J., 866-877-6262, www.battleshipnewjersey.org) where visitors can watch the fireworks from the decks of the battleship. Music, food and bar service will be featured. The ship opens at 4 p.m. for the 6 p.m. show, and 10 p.m. for the midnight show with tickets priced at $10 for either.

Ferko String Band

The Mummers will be back in force — including the Ferko String Band — for the annual New Year’s Day in Philadelphia.

New Year’s Day in Philadelphia is all about the Mummers Parade (21-336-3050, www.phillymummers.com) — a festive celebration featuring string bands, comic units and fancy divisions all strutting their stuff on Broad Street. To truly appreciate the sights and sounds of the Mummers Parade, you need to see it live at least once in your lifetime.

The Mummers tradition dates back to 400 B.C. and the Roman Festival of Saturnalias when laborers marched in masks throughout the day. Reports of rowdy groups “parading” on New Year’s Day in Philadelphia date back before the revolution.

The practice of awarding prizes was initiated in the late 1800’s and the first “official” event was held in 1901. The Mummers Parade has grown in size and stature and currently features approximately 15,000 participants.

The 2015 Parade will begin at 10 a.m. on PHL17 with the Fancy Division, followed by the Comic Division, Comic Wench Division and then the String Band Division.  The Fancy Brigade takes place indoors at the Philadelphia Convention Center from 8-10 p.m. on PHL17.

The String Band Division will feature a large number of well-known bands including the Uptown String Band, Ferko String Band, Fralinger String Band, Greater Overbrook String Band, Quaker City String Band and Pennsport String Band.

On January 1 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., the Kimmel Center (260 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-790-5800, www.kimmelcenter.org) will welcome the New Year with a free indoor “2015 New Year’s Day Celebration.”

Visitors can warm up indoors while enjoying Philadelphia’s historical Mummers Parade on Broad Street. It features a variety of family-friendly performances on the Commonwealth Plaza level.

Activity will get underway on January 1 at 10 a.m. with the opening of the “Resolution Wall.” Guests can post their 2015 resolutions for all to see from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Kids’ festivities start at 10:30 a.m. and run until 3:30 p.m. with activities such as face painting, origami, crafts and balloon animals.

The entertainment schedule features performances by DJ Kool Merk & Spin D, David Gibson, Magician Ran’D Shine, Steve Pullara and His Cool Beans Band and the Broadway Dreams Foundation

If you’re looking for an unusual way to kick off 2015, head south to Middletown, Delaware on New Year’s Day to celebrate town’s annual Hummers Parade (Main Street, Middletown, Delaware, 302- 378-7545).

hummers parade

If the Mummers aren’t your thing, you might want to check our the Hummers — no, not the giant SUVs — but rather a “gentle” parody of the Mummers staged in Middletown, Del.

Every year on New Year’s Day, Middletown’s Hummers Parade slowly but not very methodically moves down Main Street. The parade, which is intended as a spoof of Philadelphia’s Mummers, is a loosely organized event that welcomes everyone to join in the fun.

On January 1, floats and groups will assemble in the parking lot in Middletown. The parade of spoofs is scheduled to get underway at 1 p.m. and move up Broad Street. The hour-long parade will conclude on West Main Street. Trophies will be awarded in categories that have yet to be determined. No registration or sign up is required and there are no rules.

Actually, there are two basic unwritten rules — taste doesn’t matter and no-one is permitted to work on a float or a costume any earlier than the morning of the event (and, if they do, they must lie and say they didn’t).

Even though Christmas is officially over, holiday activities and other special events in the area will continue for at least another week.

Each year, the Delaware Museum of Natural History (4840 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-658-9111, www.delmnh.org) offers an option geared for families during the week between Christmas and New Year.

On December 27 and 28, the children-oriented museum in northern Delaware will be presenting its annual “Dino Days Festival”. The event, which is scheduled to run from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. each day, features a wide array of dinosaur activities, programs and movies that are both educational and fun.

The special event features live free-flight bird shows, “Meet a Scientist,” the museum’s “Titanoboa: Monster Snake” special exhibit, living animals from the Plumpton Park Zoo, a “Fake or Fossil?” table and live entertainment by Dino Rhymes with Michael Sgrignoli.

Following the success of last year’s indoor live bird shows, bird expert Phung Luu and his team at Animal Behavior & Conservation Connections return to the Museum for more avian acrobatics. This highly-trained team of experts will present bird shows at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day with hawks, owls, falcons, and other birds flying untethered around the Museum’s backyard.

Tickets for “Dino Days” are $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and $8 for children (ages 3-17).

One interesting – and historically informative – special event will take place at the Ephrata Cloister (632 West Main Street, Ephrata, 717-733-6600, www.ephratacloister.org) on December 26 and 27 and January 2 and 3.

The tours take guests back in time to visit the Cloister as it may have appeared in the 1700s. Each year’s story offers a cast of junior and senior high school students playing the roles that bring history to life. A different story is presented each year. This year’s event is billed as “The Great Comet Lantern Tours 2014.”

The original comet appeared in November 1743 and remained in the sky until March 1744. It was considered by many as a sign that the world was coming to an end. One year later, the Brothers of Ephrata published a small booklet about the comet and its possible message

As a special attraction, a contemporary manuscript account of the Great Comet, which was also known as Comet de Chéseaux, will be on loan from Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum and available for visitors to view.

Reservations are required and can be made by calling (717) 733-6600. Tours will depart the visitor center every 30 minutes from 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. The cost is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors (65 and older) and youth (ages 6-11) and $5 for children (ages 3-5).

Visitors holding tickets for Friday night performances of the Lantern Tours will be invited to partake in a grog at the 1777 House (301 W. Main St. Ephrata) and Black Forest Brewpub beginning at 9 p.m. Those holding tickets for Saturday night performances will be invited to attend an afternoon tea at the 1777 House at 4:30 p.m.

Rock Ford Plantation (881 Rockford Road, Lancaster, 717-392-7223, www.rockfordplantation.org), which was the home of plantation owner Edward Hand, presents its Yuletide Tours during the days following Christmas. This year’s events will be staged from December 26-29.

Yuletide was celebrated in the late 1700s during the 12-day period between Christmas (December 25, the day Christ was born) and Twelfth Night/the Feast of the Magi (January 6, the day the Magi offered their gifts to the infant Christ).

Back then, Christmas Day did not mark the culmination of the holiday but rather its beginning with a variety of old English traditions — decorating the home with greens, baking a Twelfth Night cake, enjoying the wassail bowl and burning the Yule log.

This year, candlelight tours will be held on December 26, 27 and 28 from 4-8 p.m. each night. During the candlelight tours, the Georgian-style mansion will be decorated with holiday greenery and illuminated by the glow of lighted candles. There will also be daylight tours on December 29 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

During the evening tours, visitors will be able to listen to live performances of period music and watch early American dancing in the great hall. Authentic 18th-century music of the season will be performed during the candlelight tours. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors (65 and older) and children (ages 6-12).

Valley Forge National Historical Park (Route 23, Valley Forge, 610-783-1074, www.nps.gov/vafo) is presenting special “Holiday Trolley Tours” from December 26-28.  Now through Sunday, park guides will offer three tours each day — 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 1-2:30 p.m. and 3-4:30 p.m.

The 90-minute guided tours, which feature a ride in a comfortable, old-fashioned Trolley, depart from the front of the Visitor Center and travel throughout the Park. Each excursion features extended stops at Muhlenberg’s Brigade and Washington’s Headquarters.

Valley Forge National Historical Park is nationally significant as the site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army under General George Washington. It was here that the Continental Army under Washington’s leadership emerged as a cohesive and disciplined fighting force.

The tours, which are both fun and educational, give visitors the opportunity to observe many of the park’s most significant historical sites. Tickets are $16.50 for adults, $13.50 for students, seniors (62 and over) and active military and $8.50 for children (11 and under).

Fans of holiday events still can get in on the action even though the big day has just passed.

“A Longwood Gardens Christmas,” the festive holiday display at Longwood Gardens (Route 1, Kennett Square, 610-388-1000, www.longwoodgardens.org), is running now through January 11. It features spectacular lights, lavish decorations, holiday music and colorful displays featuring thousands of brilliant poinsettias, brightly decorated trees and fragrant flowers — all inside the heated Conservatory.

When night falls at Longwood, a night-blooming garden of more than a half-million lights strung on close to 100 trees with approximately 40 miles of wire comes to life. A carillon with 62 cast bells plays holiday music every half hour during daylight hours. Longwood’s Open Air Theatre fountains dance to holiday music each half hour — temperature permitting.

Admission to Longwood Gardens is $20 (non-peak), $27 (peak) for adults), $17/$24 for seniors (ages 62 and older) and $10/$13; students (ages 5-18).

The popular annual event “Holidays at Hagley,” which is included with regular admission, is running now through January 6 at Hagley Museum and Library (Route 141, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-658-2400, www.hagley.org).

The 2014 edition of “Holidays at Hagley” features tours of Eleutherian Mills, which is the first du Pont family home built in America. The tours, which will be presented each day from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., feature decorations in a combination of styles from both the 19th and 20th centuries.

The 1803 du Pont family ancestral home, Eleutherian Mills, will feature holiday decorations and interpretation on the French traditions of exchanging gifts on New Year’s Day and the celebration of Twelfth Night. Admission is $14 for adults and $5 for children (ages 6-14).

This year’s 36th annual staging of “Yuletide at Winterthur” is running now through January 4 at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library (Route 52, Wilmington, Delaware, 800-448-3883, www.winterthur.org). It highlights the winter celebrations of H. F. du Pont and his family at Winterthur in the first half of the 20th century.

This year’s display also ties in with Winterthur’s “Costumes of Downton Abbey” exhibition. Admission to Yuletide at Winterthur is $25 for adults, $23 for seniors and students and $5 for children.

Nemours Mansion & Gardens (Route 141 South, Alapocas Drive, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-651-6912, www.nemoursmansion.org) is celebrating the Christmas season now through December 31with special three-hour holiday-themed tours.

During the holiday period, the guided tours will include several stories of the house and part of the gardens. Many of the rooms featured in the tour will be decorated as they would have been when DuPont resided there in the early 1900s while some will retain their traditional period decorations. Tickets for the tour at Nemours are $15.

The Historic Odessa Foundation’s 2014 Christmas Holiday Tour will be presented now through January 4 in Odessa’s historic district (Main Street, Odessa, Delaware, 302-378-4119, www.historicodessa.org).

This year, the Historic Houses of Odessa’s Corbit-Sharp House (c. 1774) will be the focal point for the literature-inspired Christmas Holiday Tours. The exhibit is inspired by the classic fairy tale “Snow White.”

The Wilmington & Western Railroad (2201 Newport Gap Pike, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-998-193, www.wwrr.com) will run its special “Holiday Night Express Trains” featuring a peaceful evening ride in the railroad’s 1929 Doodlebug rail car. Tickets for these trains, which run through December 30, are $12 for adults, $11 for senior citizens and $10 for children.

One of the best model railroads in the area is at the Morris Arboretum (100 Northwestern Avenue, Chestnut Hill, 215-247-5777, www.business-services.upenn.edu/arboretum/index.html).

The display, which is open to the public now through January 4 in the winter garden of the Morris Arboretum, has a quarter-mile of track featuring seven loops and tunnels with 15 different rail lines and two cable cars, nine bridges (including a trestle bridge you can walk under) and bustling model trains.  Philadelphia-area landmarks are all meticulously decorated for the holidays with lights that twinkle.

Model trains will also be included in “A Brandywine Christmas,” which is running now through January 4 at the Brandywine River Museum (Route 1, Chadds Ford 610-388-2700, www.brandywinemuseum.org).

The family-oriented annual holiday event features an array of interesting holiday displays, including an extensive O-gauge model railroad and thousands of natural “critter” ornaments on holiday trees.

A different way to celebrate the holidays is to go on a “Holiday Hayride” at Arasapha Farm (1835 Middletown Road, Gradyville, 610-459-2944, www.holidayhayride.com). The site is featuring its “Holiday Hayride” on December 26, 27 and 28 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. each night — weather permitting. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $10 for children (ages 2-8).

Guests will ride on sound-equipped hay wagons through a six-acre holiday wonderland featuring huge light displays, decorated trees and buildings, a variety of Christmas scenes, live Reindeer and a beautifully animated Santa’s workshop. The hayride last about 20 minutes and is choreographed with all the favorite songs of the season.

The Brandywine Valley Wine Trail’s “Holiday Open House” (www.bvwinetrail.com) is several years old and well on its way to becoming a Chester County tradition. The event will be held this year on December 27 and 28

Five local wineries from the BVWT will be hosting special holiday celebrations including

Penns Woods Winery (124 Beaver Valley Road, Chadds Ford, 610-459-0808, www.pennswoodswinery.com) and Borderland Vineyard (332 Indiantown Road, Landenberg, 215-436-9154, www.borderlandvineyard.com).

The other three are Black Walnut Winery (3000 Lincoln Highway, Sadsburyville, 610-857-5566, www.blackwalnutwinery.com), Kreuz Creek Vineyards (553 South Guernsey Road, West Grove, 610-869-4412, www.kreuzcreekvineyards.com) and Paradocx Vineyard (1833 Flint Hill Road, Landenberg, 610-255-5684 or www.paradocx.com).

“Christmas Candylane,” which is the annual holiday event at Hersheypark (100 West Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, 800-HERSHEY, www.hersheypark.com), is running now through December 31. Tickets are $12 per person.

Visitors to Hershey can also experience the winter wonderland called “Hershey Sweet Lights, A Holiday Drive-Thru Spectacular.” The attraction, which has an admission fee of $24.15 on Fridays and Saturdays and $19.15 the rest of the week, is a two-mile drive through wooded trails featuring approximately 600 illuminated, animated displays.

Dutch Wonderland Family Amusement Park (2249 Route 30 East, Lancaster, 866-386-2389, www.dutchwonderland.com) is hosting its “Dutch Winter Wonderland” now through December 30 on Saturdays, Sundays and select weekdays (December 26, 29 and 30). Tickets are $12.99.

Now through December 31, “A Very Furry Christmas” will be presented by

Sesame Place (100 Sesame Place, Langhorne, 215-752-7070, www.sesameplace.com). The event is a one-of-a-kind family-friendly celebration with everyone’s favorite furry friends — Grover, Oscar and the rest of the gang from Sesame Street. Admission is $24.

Koziar’s Christmas Village (782 Christmas Village Road, Bernville, 610-488-1110, www.koziarschristmasvillage.com). The attraction, which is now in its 67th season, will be open every night through January 1 — including Christmas Eve, Christmas Night, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Night.

The village is a visual wonderland with a large amount of holiday displays and special attractions such as a huge model train display, a toy shop, a country kitchen, indoor and outdoor Christmas displays. Admission to Christmas Village is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors (65 and older) and $7 for children (ages 4-10).

There are two popular attractions in Lancaster County that have a holiday vibe all year — the National Christmas Center Family Attraction & Museum (3427 Lincoln Hwy East, Paradise, 717-442-7950, www.nationalchristmascenter.com) and Choo Choo Barn — Traintown U.S.A. (Route 741 East, 226 Gap Rd, Strasburg, 717-687-7911, www.choochoobarn.com).

Located in the heart of Amish Country, the National Christmas Center Family Attraction & Museum takes visitors on a journey through Christmases past and present. It features 20,000 square feet of life-sized, walk-through, indoor exhibits including more than a dozen main galleries and a variety of ever-changing smaller exhibits.

Some of the galleries are “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa,” “The Art of the Nativity”, “O Holy Night,” “Images of Santa,”, “Christmas around the World,” “Santa’s North Pole Workshop and Reindeer Barn” and “A Pennsylvania Christmas.”

Choo Choo Barn — Traintown U.S.A. presents a 1,700 square foot train layout featuring over 150 hand-built animated figures and vehicles and 22 operating trains. The majority of trains that run on the display are “O Gauge” trains but there are also some HO Gauge trains as well as one N Gauge train.

Several of the original pieces and animations are still on the display today, including the ski slope, ski lodge and ice skaters, Dutch Haven, the Willows, the two-lane moving highway (in front of Dutch Haven), the farm with the tobacco barn, the Strasburg Fire House, the church beside Dutch Haven and a few other houses.

The layout features a special Christmas display now through December 31. The homes and businesses along the tracks have been decked out with holiday trim. And, there are 53 hidden Santas located around the display for visitors to find.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for children at the National Christmas Center Family Attraction & Museum. Tickets are $7 for adults and $4 for children at Choo Choo Barn — Traintown U.S.A.

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