Celebrity-hosted Christmas specials have, for the most part, become a thing of the past, a pleasant memory.
"I'm dating myself, but I remember being a kid and watching the Andy Williams Christmas show," said Jim Kotz, president of the Rosemount Area Arts Council. Even as a very young child, he enjoyed the show, as "it changed enough, and the variety was always so good."
Last year, Kotz and other arts council volunteers decided to revive that holiday tradition with a live variety show. They hosted their first, an event with music, dance, singing, readings and drama.
"The first year was very successful," said organizer Joanne Johnson of Rosemount. "Both shows sold out."
This year, they will host the second "Christmas at the Steeple Center" on Saturday, Dec. 1.
"It was just such a fun event," said Kotz. "It's a real nice time on the calendar."
Rosemount's Steeple Center, the community and arts center that opened in 2010 in the former St. Joseph's Church building, provides plenty of space. The Rosemount Community Band takes the main stage during the first act.
"It's a big, booming sound when you come in," Johnson said. Then the focus shifts between the main stage and acts on two stages flanking it. During the second act, performances take place on each of the three stages.
The setup allows them to transition between acts seamlessly, Johnson said, and pack all of the performances into two hours.
"It's constant movement, nothing too long," Kotz said. "We don't want it to be too much of any one thing."
Rosemount Mayor Bill Droste, who will read "The Night Before Christmas," said a number of people from the community were married in the church or were part of it in some way growing up, so to come back to see a traditional holiday performance there has a special significance.
"It's good to get them back in the building," he said.
Performances for this year's show include the Chancel Bell Choir from United Methodist Church in Rosemount, who will bring an ensemble of seven ringers. Their first two songs "both intertwine melodies of well-known carols," said choir director Kathy Nelson. "We will end with an arrangement called 'Christmas Cheer' which I think everyone will recognize. They'll have to come to the program to hear."
Rosemount's Sawtooth Bluegrass Band also will perform, as well as the Special Delivery Singers, a choir of disabled adults.
Soloist Heather Nelson will sing "Ave Maria" with a piano accompaniment. After she sings, Johnson will join the soloist for a duet, and then they will lead a singalong of classic holiday tunes.
"If there are families there, we want to engage them," Johnson said.
Keith Reed of the Rosemount Players will read from of "A Cup of Christmas Tea," the Rev. Josh Corbett of United Methodist will read the nativity story, and "Special friends from 'Up Nort'" will add their wit to the evening.
A local dance company called the Dance Connection will perform a tap routine to the song "Sleigh Ride" and a jazz routine to the song "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."
"It's kind of all over the map," Johnson said.
The Rosemount Area Arts Council started in 2007, and the variety show is just one of many efforts to promote art in the community. "They're fairly young, but tremendously strong, organized, good volunteers," Droste said. "We're so fortunate. They've just done great things."
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.