1. Decorations that get you into the holiday spirit
Starting at the beginning of December, giant gingerbread men and wintery hanging decorations appeared throughout the Welcome Center. Even though temperatures outside were not seasonal, here at Conner Prairie, “elves” were busy making the season bright. My favorite decorations are the giant wrapped gifts near the gingerbread houses. I can only imagine what might be inside!
2. Snow-covered fields, trees, woods...and a balloon?
Few can argue that fields and trees frosted with snow pull you into the magic of winter, but a snow-topped balloon? Well, it may not be entirely holiday-related, but it is pretty amazing seeing a giant helium balloon covered with snow and with icicles hanging off its tethers. It took this sense of perspective for me to see how gigantic the 1859 Balloon Voyage really is, and the balloon's orange and yellow stripes look all the more vibrant next to the pure white covering.
3. The Conner Prairie Store
Who could beat shopping at work with a bit of an employee discount? I have been guilty of shopping at school or work for holiday gifts for many, many years. When I was a student at IU, everyone in the family got IU t-shirts and sweatshirts from the bookstore. When I lived in Chicago, it was city-themed gifts from the gift shop in the lobby of my building. Now that I work at Conner Prairie, it’s unique recipe books and vintage-looking ornaments for the tree. I'm excited about the gift giving possibilities for years to come as the store is always bringing in new and unique gifts.
4. The annual holiday staff lunch
About a week ago, we held our annual holiday staff luncheon hosted by our president, Ellen M. Rosenthal. All who work a Conner Prairie gathered for lunch, employee awards, employment milestone awards and a dessert competition. While the lunch was delicious and the dessert competition was filled with every yummy treat under the sun, it was the employment milestone awards that won my heart that day. Handmade candle holders, mugs, plates, jugs, a lamp and even a pie plate occupied a huge table—there must have been at least 25 items on that table. Each piece was handmade by one of our own Conner Prairie potters in celebration of a 5-, 10-,15-year or more anniversary with Conner Prairie, all the way up to one employee's 40-year anniversary. As I sat in the luncheon and saw how proud each recipient was to hear his or her name called and to receive the anniversary memento, it filled me with thanks to be part of such an organization. As I celebrate my six month “anniversary” here at Conner Prairie, I am eager to know what the next year will bring.
Let me preface this by saying, I’ve never been fond of heights.
Last week, I went on my first flight in the new 1859 Balloon Voyage. I was hesitant at first, but it’s one of those things you just have to try! My hands were sweating and my knees shaking when I boarded the balloon with a few co-workers. Adam was the pilot along with Michael from Aerophile, the balloon manufacturer. To distribute the weight, we spread out evenly around the gondola for take off, and within a few minutes we were floating 175 feet off the ground. Adam made the announcement, “We’re half way there!” I couldn’t believe it. I could already see the Indy skyline, the Pyramids, Fishers and all of Conner Prairie.
When we reached the top of our ascent at 354 feet, we stopped and floated for awhile. I was still shaky, hands grasped tightly to the railing for most of the flight, but wow, what a cool experience. Since I’m a video person, I took the video camera with me and put together this short montage of my first flight along with some cool shots of the balloon in action.
Today, I had the chance to fly again. I jumped on board with no hesitation, no shaky knees, no sweaty palms. What a view!