Plainview Olde Fashioned Christmas: Began 25 years ago

START YOUR CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS THIS YEAR BY REKINDLING THE WARMTH OF HOLIDAYS PAST.  A Victorian Christmas is brought to life in the sights, sounds and tastes at Plainview’s Olde Fashioned Christmas, December 1 and 2.  

The event, organized each year by the Plainview Lions Club, is attended by nearly 3,000 people from the area. “It’s a very merry time, very festive,” says Dan Schmitz, president of the Lions Club. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Olde Fashioned Christmas, and organizers say they are planning some special surprises to celebrate.

Plainview’s Olde Fashioned Christmas officially began in 1993 when a group of four townspeople, led by Ted Zabel, had the idea to expand upon wagon rides that were a Plainview Christmastime tradition for several years. Sally Harrington, one of those townspeople, recalls, “We all had young families at the time, and the kids had a ball helping out. In the beginning it was simple and short, but as the years went on, we drew in different parts of the community.” The first few years, attendees could visit a Victorian Christmas scene at the historic home of Curt and Sue Buck, located on Fourth Street. There was a choir singing carols, and Santa and Mrs. Claus were in the public library, awaiting guests. 

Harrington has many memories of those days, but there is one memory in particular that has a special place in her heart. “There was one couple,” she explains, “a particularly engaging couple who we especially enjoyed talking with. Later, we discovered that the wife was dying of cancer, and it was her wish to attend Olde Fashioned Christmas. So, from that we realized we don’t always know why people attend the event, but we all said ‘this is why we are doing this.’” 

At the heart of an Olde Fashioned Christmas are the horse-drawn wagon rides that take attendees on a three-quarter-mile route through the town, stopping at points of interest along the way. 

In the quaint town of Plainview, you might just meet Ebenezer Scrooge, Frosty the Snowman or even the Grinch. You’ll probably enjoy the variety of Christmas classics sung by groups of carolers meandering about the town. You’ll surely meet at least one Plainview Lions Club member—also known as Victorian Lamplighters—while dressed in heavy woolen coats and top hats, help guests cross streets and disembark from the wagons. Awaiting your arrival at City Hall, Santa and Mrs. Claus greet all the boys and girls who would like to tell Santa what is on this year’s list. At Peoples State Bank, you can have your photo taken in the photo booth, choose an ornament to take home, and enjoy cider and popcorn while you warm up. 

As you make your way to Immanuel Lutheran Church to view the live Nativity, you’ll ride past the many historic homes of Plainview lavishly decorated for the holidays. For 25 years, Immanuel Lutheran has been enacting the Christmas story for Olde Fashioned Christmas attendees. Church members dress as Mary and Joseph, and live animals surround them in the stable. To continue your Christmas reflection on the Nativity, visit Community Presbyterian Church, as each year they display their collection of more than 100 Nativity scenes from around the world.

While the horse-drawn wagon rides are only available Saturday night, after the Opening Ceremony at 4:30 p.m., most of the businesses in Plainview will have special events and offers Friday. Be sure to visit the Festival of Trees at the Community Center and the Lights for Life Cancer Fundraiser at Wedgewood Park. There is no charge to attend Olde Fashioned Christmas. For more information, visit

Holly Galbus is a Rochester freelance writer.