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Here we come a wassailing: Christmas carols to replace Christmas on the Hill

Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

 The Olive Hill Center for Arts & Education’s annual Christmas on the Hill show is a beloved event in the community. It’s a chance to visit with neighbors, share a meal, and enjoy the sounds of the holiday season. But with current restrictions on large indoor gatherings, there was really no responsible way for the event to go on as normal. The historical society went ahead with their On With the Show event this spring, limiting the number of tickets sold and making sure tables were adequately spaced to maintain responsible social distancing. 

But, to musical director Debbie Baker Harman, that didn’t seem like the right thing to do with the Christmas event. Instead of selling a limited number of tickets, she explained, she wanted to do something else that the whole community could enjoy. So, this year, instead of the big production, the arts organization is downsizing and doing something more traditional – they’re taking a group Christmas caroling around the city. 

Though she hasn’t yet decided on a setlist for the night, Baker Harman said she wants the evening to focus on “traditional carols, that everyone is familiar with.” 

“I’ve invited a lot of folks, regulars at Christmas on the Hill,” she said, explaining she wants it to be fun for the singers and for those listening. 

She also said she enjoys the idea of reviving an old tradition. 

“It’s just something we can do to bring a little joy to the season,” she continued. “It (Christmas caroling) used to be a really big thing. But it’s just a fun and joyous thing to do.” 

The carolers will gather this Friday, around 6 p.m., outside the Dollar General store, to do their first set of carols. 

“There’s plenty of space to spread out,” Baker Harman explained, adding that they had gotten permission from the business to put the carolers in the grass berm at the edge of the parking lot. 

After they finish at the Dollar General they will move down to Hydreco Village apartments, where they may split into a couple of smaller groups to cover the ground. While she said they may have some instruments, depending on the weather that may not be an option, as extreme cold can make it hard to keep stringed instruments in tune. But the singers will be out no matter the temperature. 

It was really important to Baker Harman that this be a free event everyone can enjoy, with no pressure to tip or make contributions, so there will be no tip bucket or passing of the hat. 

“It’s just something we want to do for the community,” she said. “We want to do something for free. Most of the (Center for Arts & Education’s) events have an admission fee, because we do have expenses. But we want this to be an opportunity to give back.” 

“We’d like this to be a gift to the community,” she continued. She said people are missing out on their regular holiday get togethers and traditions – and that includes the performers as well – and, “this is something we can do and want to do.” 

Though they “always accept donations,” she said their regular contributors have been generous this year, “and it’s so appreciated.” They also received some money from CARES through the NEA, and their regular contribution from the Kentucky Arts Council’s Kentucky Arts Partnership. 

“Those were all great blessing this year,” she said. 

If you are interested in donating to the Olive Hill Historical Society and their Center for Arts & Education, you can send those donations care of the organization to: Olive Hill Historical Society, P.O. Box 143, Olive Hill, KY, 41164. 

The Christmas caroling will begin this Friday, December 4, at 6 p.m. at the Dollar General in Olive Hill. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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