I am a sucker for cheesy holiday movies, and Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square is my new favorite seasonal flick. There’s just something about neighbors in small towns supporting each other while surrounded by over-the-top festive decor that gives me all the Christmas feels.
While I don’t believe Dolly Parton has plans to visit Hendricks County anytime soon, you will find plenty of holiday cheer when Danville hosts its 15th annual Christmas on the Square on Nov. 26.
Folks of all ages are delighted each year the evening after Thanksgiving when the Danville town square transforms into a Christmas wonderland as family and friends gather. The town officially turns on the canopy of lights that stream down from every side of the square, officially kicking off the Christmas season.
Downtown Danville Partnership
I talked to the new (as of February) Executive Director of the Downtown Danville Partnership, Anne Johansson, to get the full scoop on this year’s Christmas on the Square festivities. Downtown Danville Partnership is the organizer of the event, but it is a collaboration with several community organizations, including Kiwanis, the chamber of commerce, several town departments and more.
They all work together with the goal of bringing people to Danville’s beautiful downtown and supporting the town’s amazing small businesses.
Anne feels that the historic Hendricks County Courthouse is the perfect venue for this event and a natural gathering place to generate plenty of holiday spirit.
And I must agree…Danville’s Christmas on the Square feels like a favorite Christmas movie come to life! It’s the perfect way to jump-start your Christmas spirit, and Anne hopes it becomes a treasured tradition for many families, both near and far, as it has been for her family.
Like many local residents, Anne has been enjoying Christmas on the Square with her own family for many years. And this year she is thrilled to be on the planning side of this beloved kickoff to the holiday season.
After last year’s scaled-down version of the event amid the height of the pandemic, this year’s Christmas on the Square is bringing back the full lineup of activities, as well as a few new treats! I can’t share all the secrets just yet, but here are some of the highlights.
Lighting the Tree
There is a brand new tree to decorate and light up this year! The old tree was dying and had to be removed so a new 4-foot tall tree now graces the Southeast corner of the square, across from Dips.
This tree will serve as the new centerpiece of Christmas on the Square and families will get to watch the tree grow from year to year as they return for the annual festivities.
Don’t worry about the currently small stature of the tree as the event organizers have something special planned to make it a grand tree lighting this year!
I hear Santa will arrive by horse-drawn wagon this year, and the new tree will be dedicated at 5 p.m.
After switching on the lights amid plenty of holiday fanfare at 6 pm, Santa will then head down to open up Santaland at Ellis Park.
For the Kids
Christmas on the Square is a family-friendly event for all ages, but there are some special activities sure to please the young’uns.
Swing by Speakeasy Books and More where the kiddos can write down their Christmas wishes and mail them to Santa. Slip those letters in Santa’s mailbox and The Big Guy will send a personalized letter back to your child.
The little ones in your crew will be clamoring to ride the Trackless Train and since there is no charge to ride, parents can easily say “All Aboard!”
Holiday Decor & More
Santa and Mrs. Claus as well as other beloved holiday characters and carolers will be roaming the square and spreading Christmas cheer throughout the event. Lots of great photo ops for those still working on this year’s Christmas cards!
Speaking of photo ops, a professional photographer will also be on hand to take photos against a festive backdrop. Just flash your biggest Christmas smile and you will get a card with the link to download your photo. Did I mention, this is free?!
Simply wander the square as you take in the holiday-themed window displays, which are sure to inspire your own decorating plans. And don’t miss the live nativity scene put on by Danville United Methodist Church.
Shopping & Dining
As you enjoy all the outdoor festivities, be sure to pop in the array of shops lining the square as well. Shop owners will be staying open late to showcase their unique treasures and holiday gift items.
Find that one-of-a-kind creation at Forget-Me-Knots or a piece of handmade art by a local artist at Gallery on the Square. Work your way around the entire square and side streets and you will have your entire holiday shopping list checked off in no time.
After the lights are all aglow and you are ready to sit a spell, dig into some down-home food at Mayberry Cafe or head over to Frank’s Place for an Italian feast. Don’t forget to pop into Court House Grounds for some of Grandma Pete’s famous fruitcake!
There will also be several food trucks at the event, so come hungry. Of course, you will want to bundle up for this outdoor event, but the Kiwanis Club of Danville will be there handing out hot chocolate to help you warm up on the inside.
Whether this will be your first year attending Christmas on the Square or it is a much-anticipated, annual tradition, I know I’m not the only one looking forward to gathering with friends and neighbors as we usher in the holiday season in Hendricks County!
What You Need To Know
Christmas on the Square
Friday, Nov. 26, 2021
Historic Hendricks County Courthouse Square in Danville, Indiana
The event is free to attend and there is no cost for the various activities, but attendees will want to have money for shopping and dining. The square will be closed to traffic, but there is free public parking all around on side streets. Dress for the weather as the event will be held rain or shine (or snow!)
The tree dedication takes place at 5 p.m., and Santa flips the switch to light up Danville at 6 p.m. The event ends at 8 p.m., but that is the perfect time to head over to Ellis Park for the Winterland drive-through light show.