Sweet treats and Santa await at Carroll County Farm Museum holiday tours

It’s probably no coincidence that as the weather gets colder, sweet treats are at the center of many winter celebrations to bring joy in all its foil-wrapped, chocolate-drizzled and sugar-dusted forms.

This year, the hall of the farmhouse at the Carroll County Farm Museum is decked with candy for the “Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice” themed holiday tours.


Admission is reduced to $3 per person for the holidays, or $10 per family. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays with self-guided tours offered all day long until Dec. 21. Costumed docents will be on hand to answer questions. Monday through Thursday, costumed docents will give guided tours through the farmhouse between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

There is no charge to take a photo with Santa, who is available in his log cabin to speak to good children from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.


“It’s our favorite Santa,” said Nikki Nail, who was visiting with her family on Saturday. They preferred visiting Mr. Claus at the Farm Museum than other places that had longer lines. “It’s just a more comfortable environment,” she said.

Santa and his helpers made calls to more than 300 kids in Carroll County on Tuesday — with callers ranging from county Department of Recreation and Parks staff to county commissioners.

Willa Thomasson was a little more hesitant about visiting the man in red as she and her siblings enjoyed some hot chocolate outside.

“No thanks,” she said.

But she did enjoy beading and making a gumball machine in the crafts area. And her Christmas list was organized and ready to go.


“I want everything rainbow,” she said.

Inside the farmhouse, each room is decorated around the theme of a certain candy.

Chocolate filled the study, where a tree is draped with rich mocha-colored ornaments, and even the deer mounted on the walls are decorated. On the desk, chocolate gelt twinkles next to a menorah. A small stuffed dog sleeps next to a fireplace decorated with vintage chocolate ads.

In the children’s bedroom of the house, the featured candy is taffy and molasses pulls, an old fashioned treat that many are unfamiliar with today.

“This is the first year the Museum's Youth Volunteer Team decorated a room in the Farmhouse. They did the taffy theme in the Children's Room and it turned out great,” said Farm Museum Manager Joanne Weant. “They made all the decorations and then came in to decorate the room. The staff and other volunteers really appreciated their youthful enthusiasm.”

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The origins of many familiar candy companies today — Hershey, Whitman’s, Ghirardelli — as well as the invention of confections from peanut brittle to candy corn are tracked on a timeline in the hall. Conversation Hearts, for example, are more than 100 years old, having first appeared in 1902.

For an added challenge, a gingerbread man is hidden in each room for guests to find.

Docent Austin Hewitt was dressed in a bright red neck tie and period garb as he greeted families to the museum Saturday morning Dec. 8.

Tastes and trends in candy changed around the Industrial Revolution when families began to have more spending money and children had more leisure time, he said. Chocolate, previously a wealthy person’s treat, entered the home of the everyday American.

“Chocolate dominates candy now. That wasn’t the case in 1800,” he said.

The artisans who set up shop at the Farm Museum were on hand to give demonstrations Saturday and will be there every weekend through Dec. 21.

Tinsmiths Tom Bryant and Jeff Leister were busy making holiday tools and gifts.

After promising his wife a tin angel to top their Christmas tree for years, Bryant came up with an original design featuring punched designs on the dress and wings. The design has proved popular.

“Now I’ve got five to make,” he said.

Leister demonstrated for young guests Josh and Shane Havrilla how tinsel was originally made by twisting thin scraps of tin.

Cookie cutters shaped like exotic animals were very popular in the 1800s, he told them. Each baker would have a signature cookie cutter shape so that when groups got together it was easy to tell whose cookies were whose.

“We’ve got to excite our youth, or we may as well close our doors,” Leister said about teaching young guests to the museum.

Josh and Shane’s mother, Sarah Havrilla, said the museum was a good place to learn new things and meet people “who are actually doing this and can explain history.”

Other activities include free kids crafts, the Children’s Touch Room decorated like a Victorian parlor and a shop selling cider, cookies and hot chocolate.

The sweet theme of the activities was planned far in advance and will hopefully appeal to families as much as it appealed to the Farm Museum staff and volunteers, Weant said.

“Candy is just something that’s universal,” she said.

When the holiday tours finish at the end of December, it won’t be long before the volunteers begin planning for next year’s tour.

“Every year I say it’s their best year yet, and then they outdo themselves again,” she said. “We are always looking for volunteers to help with the Holiday Tour — not just the decorating but also assisting the museum during the event. We have families that make holiday volunteering their family tradition. We can always use more.”

At the holidays, it’s extra gratifying for the staff and volunteers to see visitors enjoying the decorations and activities.

“We’re a part of people’s holiday activities and we really love that,” she said.

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