Top Christmas Towns in the Midwest

Visitors to Ste. Geneviève will find historic buildings and cabins, like the Sassafras Creek Cabin, decorated for the holidays. | Photo courtesy R. Mueller

AAA Magazine ranked the top Christmas towns in the Midwest.  Ste. Genevieve came in at #2! Considering a Holiday Getaway? Check Out These Charming Small Towns (aaa.com)

Party like its 1745 in the old French village of Ste. Geneviève where the new blends with old traditions during the Holiday Christmas Festival on the first full weekend in December. On Saturday, December 4, festivities kick off with a parade led by Santa, followed by shopping opportunities and open houses honoring French Christmas traditions. On Saturday afternoon, the Felix Vallé House State Historic Site, which dates to 1818, re-creates Le Réveillon—a traditional feast usually served after midnight Christmas Mass that includes 13 desserts honoring Jesus and his disciples.

Then return to Ste. Geneviève on December 31 for La Guignolée, a French New Year’s Eve tradition. Follow costumed La Guignolèe revelers as they march to select sites in town and sing a beggar’s song for drinks and favors. The party continues at their final stop, the Centre for French Colonial Life, and participants welcome the New Year.

Ste. Genevieve Voted #2: Best Small Town Cultural Scene

 

Ste. Genevieve ranked #2!

Impressive #2, Ste. Genevieve

Chocolate Walk 2022

Do you love eating chocolate and shopping? Then this event is for you! Join in the delicious fun on the first Saturday in February in historic downtown Ste. Genevieve. With the purchase of a ticket, you will be able to sample a yummy chocolate treat at each participating shop while you explore the unique items for sale! Only 300 tickets are available, and they always sell out in advance. To purchase a ticket go to: www.downtownstegenevieve.org. This event is sponsored by Downtown Ste. Genevieve.

 

 

Junior Ranger Makes Ste. Genevieve Her 345th National Park Stop

Aida Frey showed off some of the Junior Ranger badges she has obtained during trips to 345 national parks as of December 29, when she stopped in Ste. Genevieve.

Aida Frey from the Chicago area visited Ste. Genevieve on December 29, 2020, making her 345th stop at a national park.

Frey is a participant in and a proponent of the NPS Junior Ranger program. Her business card calls her the “Sweetheart of the National Parks.” She posts about her travels on Facebook (Junior Ranger Aida Frey), Twitter (@jrranger) and Instagram (@juniorrangeraida). She also has a written a book, “America, Can I Have Your Autograph?”

Frey and her family stopped through Ste. Genevieve during a trip that also included three national trip stops in Texas — Big Bend National Park, Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River, and Fort Davis National Historic Site.

The Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park was established as the 422nd unit of the National Park Service on October 30, 2020. There now are 423 national park units.

With Visit To Ste. Genevieve, Kovalski Adds Another National Park To His List

Four years ago this month, Dr. Paul Kovalski completed a 30-year journey to visit all the national parks. The dentist from Marlboro, New Jersey saved for last a park in his home state — Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. It was his 413th different national park.

Dr. Paul Kovalski posed with Mickey Koetting on the porch of the Guibourd-Valle House before Koetting led a tour of the 1806 home, one of the historic structures open for touring in Ste. Genevieve.

The National Park Service keeps adding parks, however, and Kovalski keeps traveling.

On Thursday, December 17, he visited Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park, the second-newest unit in the National Park Service system — No. 422. (The Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument was established as the 423rd unit on December 10.)
Kovalski, who also volunteers many hours per year at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, brought to Ste.Genevieve some items from that park as well as other national parks he has visited. While he rates Glacier National Park as tops on his list, he thought the story of St. Croix Island, founded in 1604 as one of the first settlements of New France, would be of interest to Ste. Genevieve history buffs.
While in Ste. Genevieve, Kovalski toured the Guibourd-Valle House operated by the Foundation for Restoration. He also visited the Ste. Genevieve Welcome Center; the National Park Service headquarters at the Jean-Baptiste Valle House; and the Green Tree Tavern, which is owned by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources but has been legislatively approved for transfer to the National Park Service.
Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park was established on October 30, 2020. It includes the Jean-Baptiste Valle House on South Main Street and the Bauvais-Amoureux House on St. Mary’s Road. The National Park Service is working with the city of Ste. Genevieve to jointly operate the Welcome Center, which also has been approved for transfer to the National Park Service.
Since establishment, the park has attracted visitors interested in having their National Park Service passport books stamped. Also among the visitors so far is David Kroese, an author who chronicled his visits to all the national parks in his book, The Centennial: A Journey through America’s National Parks System.

Reaching Halfway Point Between Eclipses

Monday, December 14, marks 1,211 days since the Great American Eclipse of 2017, and 1,211 days to the next total solar eclipse for Ste. Genevieve — on April 8, 2024.

A solar eclipse did take place on Monday, December 14, and it was viewable in Argentina and Chile in South America.

A photo of the 2017 solar eclipse taken in Downtown Ste. Genevieve.

Ste. Genevieve was included in the path of totality on August 21, 2017 — the first time that was the case since perhaps the 1400s.

The St. Louis area had not previously been on the centerline for a total solar eclipse since 1442, and St. Louis won’t be on the centerline for the 2024 eclipse.

The 2024 centerline will cross the United States from Texas to the northeast. The north edge of the centerline will not extend as far up as Festus but it will include Ste. Genevieve County.

As the northern end of the centerline, Ste. Genevieve will have about 2 minutes of totality; Cape Girardeau will have about 4 minutes as the midpoint of the centerline.

Ste. Genevieve had more than 2 1/2 minutes of totality in 2017 by being at the midpoint of the centerline and near the point of longest duration in Southern Illinois.

In 2017, Ste. Genevieve hosted a one-day musical festival leading into the eclipse event, and a viewing event took place at the Ste. Genevieve County Community Center.

For more information on the 2024 eclipse, click here.

Forbes magazine had a story about the halfway as well.

Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park Established

The Jean-Baptiste Valle House is serving as the headquarters for the Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park, which was established on Friday, October 30.

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt and U.S. Representative Jason Smith on Friday [October 30] announced that U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt has completed the final step to formally establish the Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park.

Blunt and Smith led the legislation, which was signed into law in March 2018, to establish the Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park and designate it as a unit of the National Park System.

This is the first National Historical Park to be established in Missouri.

View the complete news release from Senator Blunt’s office here.

To view the release from the Department of the Interior, click here.

Click here for story from the Daily Journal.

36th Annual Holiday Christmas Festival Set For Dec. 5-6

Ste. Genevieve’s Holiday Christmas Festival — one of the largest such celebrations in Missouri — will take place this year … with some modifications to address COVID-19.

The event returns for its 36th year with the ever-popular parade on Saturday, December 5, and more than a dozen concerts taking place over the two days.

Masks will be required at all indoor concerts and lectures per request of the musicians and speakers. Masks also will be required at the Lions Park Spectacular, where children can have their photographs with Santa and Mrs. Claus taken under social-distancing guidelines.

Event organizer Annette Rolfe said the many musicians who offer entertainment annually at the event looked forward to coming back this year.

“Everyone is really on-board,” Rolfe said. “All they want is the precautions. If we follow the rules, we can make this work.”

Rolfe emphasizes that the Ste. Genevieve County Health Department strongly suggests wearing a mask at public venues.

Parade participants will be allowed to throw candy as they usually do, though masks and gloves are being encouraged for those who do.

The parade route from the Valle Catholic Desert to Third Street to Market to Main to Washington to Second to Merchant and back to the desert is long enough to encourage social distancing for parade-watchers. It will kick off the festival at 11 a.m.

The Lions Park Spectacular beginning at noon will include hot chocolate, hot dogs and chili in addition to free photos with Santa. Children eat free when accompanied by an adult. Music will be provided by Vernon Flieg, the first of many musical performances on the weekend.

Christmas crafts for children will be offered by Ste. Genevieve artist Diane Wilson beginning at noon at the Orris Theatre. Masks will be required and social distancing will be observed.

The indoor music venues also will observe social distancing with seating limitations.

The musical performances on Saturday afternoon feature an acclaimed group of performers, Concerts will be given by the Joyful Sound Ringers handbell choir, Southeast Missouri State University professor Matt Palisch on the pipe organ at the Church of Ste. Genevieve, the Southeast Missouri String Quartet, the Isaac Lausell Trio, Adele Martin and Bluesette, saxophonist Gerry Huggins and guitarist Stormy Bennett. In addition to the Catholic Church, venues include Holy Cross Lutheran Church, the First Presbyterian Church, the Orris, and the Jean-Baptiste Valle House, which serves as the headquarters for the newly established Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park.

Huggins will play at the 18th-century Jean-Baptiste Valle House on Saturday, as will Martin and Bluesette.

Martin was born in Belgium and now lives in Illinois. She bills her sounds as French cafe music. “You’ll feel like you’re on the Left Bank [of Paris],” Rolfe said.

Bennett, from Ste. Genevieve, has played gospel and patriotic music at events and shows throughout the region.

In addition to the concerts, French Colonial America director Geoff Giglierano will portray a French priest in a program exploring the importance of faith in colonial communities.

The Guibourd-Valle House, owned and operated by the Foundation for Restoration, will host an open house Saturday evening from 4 to 6 p.m. with colonial decorations and live music.

At the same time, Music Art Love will feature live music by Academy Hill.

All of that activity Saturday leads into the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at 6 p.m. outside the Welcome Center. Gary Scheel will emcee the event. Les Chanteurs Francais with Bill and Patti Naeger will perform, along with the Ste. Genevieve High School Madrigal Choir.

The First Presbyterian Church will host its Live Nativity scene beginning at 6 p.m., and carols will be sung outside the church.

Sunday’s schedule includes afternoon concerts by violinist Megan Heithaus, Lausell on guitar and renowned harpist Amy Camie leading up to the 4 p.m. finale featuring the Ste. Genevieve Muncipal Band Wind Ensemble in the Church of Ste. Genevieve.

Lausell, who teaches at the Southern Illinois University School of Music in Carbondale, has been a festival mainstay. He teams with professor Jimmy Beers and Dr. Richard Kelly for the modern jazz trio on Saturday and then performs selections spanning 500 years of French, Italian, Spanish and American music with his classical guitar performance on Sunday.

Heithaus, who has been part of the event for 13 years, performs in the string quartet on Saturday afternoon and then provides the music at the Guibourd-Valle on Saturday night before returning to play solo on Sunday afternoon.

Camie is new to the Holiday Christmas Festival. She is a certified clinical musician and spiritual harpist who will weave together holiday favorites in a seamless tapestry that wraps you in the spirit of Christmas.

Following her 3 p.m. performance in the Church of Ste. Genevieve, the municipal band’s wind ensemble will perform a concert of traditional Christmas music that also will get listeners into the Christmas spirit.

Also on the weekend, the Ste. Genevieve Art Guild will have its Christmas show in its new building on the Courthouse Square and the new Museum Learning Center will have Christmas displays in its courtyard.

“My goal is that people feel safe,” Rolfe said. “Even in this time, we want to have a magical place that people can come to and have a wonderful experience.”

For more information on the event, go to www.visitstegen.com.

EVENT SCHEDULE

Saturday, December 5

11 a.m.

— FREE Christmas Parade, Ste. Genevieve Historic District.

12 noon

— Lions Park Spectacular, FREE pictures with Santa (Masks Required), Market Street. Hot chocolate, hotdogs, and chili. Kids under 12 eat FREE, when accompanied by an adult. FREE Vernon Flieg performs traditional country, rock and Christmas tunes.

— FREE Christmas Crafts for Children by Diane Wilson (Masks Required) at the ORRIS, 265 Merchant Street, ENDS AT 2:00 p.m.

1 to 1:45 p.m.

— FREE pipe organ concert, and Joyful Sound Ringers directed by Matt Palisch, Professor of Organ for SEMO State University and Director of Music for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Jackson, MO. The Joyful Sound Ringers perform both at St. Paul’s worship service and also special concerts and workshops associated with the hand bell association of St. Louis. Program includes Christmas carols by the ringers and organ solos at the Ste. Genevieve Catholic Church, 49 DuBourg Place. ONE CONCERT ONLY.

— FREE Southeast Missouri String Quartet concert performed by accredited directors, teachers and symphony performers at the Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 200 Market Street, featuring Baroque, Classical, and Romantic period Austro-German music.

— FREE The Isaac Lausell Trio, modern jazz with standards in Latin music featuring award winning Dr. Isaac Lausell from SIU School of Music, Carbondale, Professor Jimmy Beers, and Dr. Richard Kelly, at the First Presbyterian Church, 160 S. Main Street.

— FREE Authentic French Café music, jazz, soul, blues, and Christmas tunes. Performed by Adele Martin and Bluesette at the Historic Jean-Baptiste Valle House, 99 S. Main Street.

2 to 2:45 p.m.

— Repeat of above concerts: String Quartet, Isaac Lausell Trio, and Adele Martin and Bluesette.

— FREE Matt Palisch, Professor of Organ for SEMO State University and Director of Music for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Jackson, MO will perform a solo pipe organ concert featuring multiple genres of music from Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Impressionistic to 20th and 21st Century Christmas tunes at the Ste. Genevieve Catholic Church, 49 DuBourg Place. ONE CONCERT ONLY

— FREE French Colonial American Executive Director Geoff Giglierano portrays Pere Sebastian Louis Meurin in a “First Person” program that explores the importance of faith in 18th century French Colonial communities of upper Louisiana and the intersection of European and Native American spirituality, at DuBourg Centre, 305 Merchant Street. ONE LECTURE ONLY.

3 to 3:45 p.m.

— FREE saxophone solo performance by Gerry Huggins, featuring contemporary, smooth jazz, and holiday music at the Jean-Baptiste Valle House, 99 S. Main Street.

— FREE acoustic guitar concert performed by Stormy Bennett specializing in thumb rhythm and melody at the ORRIS, 265 Merchant Street.

4 to 4:45 p.m.

— Repeat of above concerts: acoustic guitar and saxophone.

4 to 6 p.m.

— FREE Guibourd House hosts an open house at Fourth and Merchant Street featuring a display of Colonial Christmas decorations. Baroque period solo violin performance by Megan Heithaus. ENDS AT 6 p.m.

— FREE Blue Grass music performed by Academy Hill at Music Art Love, 199 N. Main Street. ENDS AT 6 p.m.

6 p.m.

— FREE Community Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, at the Welcome Center, 66 S. Main Street, featuring Santa and Mrs. Claus. Performances by Les Chanteurs Francais with Bill & Patti Naeger, SGHS Madrigal Choir, and hosted by Gary Scheel.

— FREE Live Bethlehem Nativity Scene, First Presbyterian Church, 160 S. Main Street. Christmas carols will be sung outside the church.

— Lynn, Jack, and Jen Trio performing pop standard’s from the 30’s to the 70’s, with a little country and Broadway at Audubon’s Grill and Bar, 9 N. Main Street.

Sunday, December 6

12:30 to 1:15 p.m.

— FREE violin solo performance, performed by Megan Heithaus, featuring Impressionistic period music, at the Welcome Center, 66 S. Main Street.

— FREE classical guitar concert performed by renowned artist Dr. Isaac Lausell, DMA, SIU School of Music, Carbondale, featuring 500 years of French, Italian, Spanish, and American music at the Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 200 Market Street.

1:30 to 2:15 p.m.

— Repeat of above concerts: Violin and Classical Guitar.

3 p.m.

— FREE renowned artist Amy Camie performing unique solo harp interpretations in her program “Embracing the Spirit of Christmas” weaving together holiday favorites in a seamless tapestry that gently opens the heart and lovingly wraps you in the spirit of Christmas at the Ste. Genevieve Catholic Church, 49 DuBourg Place.

4 p.m.

— FREE Ste. Genevieve Municipal Band Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Ste. Genevieve Catholic Church at 49 DuBourg Place.

Saturday and Sunday

— Ste. Genevieve Art Guild Christmas Show will be open at the historic “Museum” building, 310 Merchant Street. Saturday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and Sunday 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

— The Ste. Genevieve Museum Learning Center will have Christmas displays in their Courtyard, 360 Market Street. 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

— Visit historic sites, museums, art galleries and shops.

MASKS REQUIRED AT ALL INDOOR CONCERTS AND LECTURES PER REQUESTS OF THE MUSICIANS AND SPEAKERS!

The Ste Genevieve County Health Department strongly suggests wearing a mask at public venues.

Museum Learning Center Opens

The Daily Journal reported on the October 16 soft opening for the Sainte Genevieve Museum Learning Center.

The facility at 360 Market Street features items from the Darrough Collection, which includes dinosaur sculptures, and items related to Ste. Genevieve history from the old museum.

The Museum Learning Center currently is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission includes a ticket to return when more of the museum is open.

Read the Daily Journal story here.

Octane Tour Impressed With Drive Through Ste. Genevieve

The Daily Journal published a story about the Octane Tour’s visit to Southeast Missouri during the weekend of September 11 to September 13.

The tour attracts dozens of car enthusiasts in the St. Louis area for weekend getaway drives. This year’s drive featured Ste. Genevieve County and its wine country.

Several classic cars stopped in Ste. Genevieve on Friday, September 11, and parked at downtown parking lots.

Organizer Matt Burcham was impressed with Ste. Genevieve, telling the Daily Journal:

“The response that the Ste. Genevieve businesses had with us coming into town was crazy. Everybody had handmade signs welcoming the Octane Tour.

“Some people had even made up some dash plaques and handed them out to us and other people met us, and it was really cool. All these people were taking pictures of these signs and putting them on Facebook. It was nice to see the area wanted us here. We want to try and patronize these places as we can.”

USA Today Feature Article on Ste. Genevieve

Hotel Audubon, Ste. Genevieve MO

USA Today Feature Article on Ste. Genevieve

Hotel Audubon, Ste. Genevieve MO

Hotel Audubon, established in 1903 and re-opened in 2018, shares Ste. Geneviève’s historic charms
GARY GARTH, SPECIAL TO USA TODAY

Ste. Genevieve was featured in this USA Today gallery article about its architectural and historical significance.

Read the article HERE.