HAMLET -- It feels like it was just a few months ago when Elizabeth and Rachel’s parents took them to Hensler’s to find the perfect Christmas tree. Their little coats and mittens were impatiently thrown on amidst giggles and excitement. Even though Mom and Dad took forever to get ready, the girls still had plenty to think about. After all, it was the beginning of the season and the family had already pulled out the Christmas boxes, which were piled all over the living room and ready for the moment that Dad pulled the tree through the door.
That excitement is something that John Hensler, the owner of Hensler’s Nursery in Hamlet, and his crew of helpers have been building on for 25-plus years. Now their Christmas experience, known as Christmasfest, covers fields of beautiful trees and a small village of charming buildings.
“We’re trying to captivate you. We’re trying to overload you with visual and olfactory sensory things,” explained Hensler. “Hopefully, it’s the kind of overload that makes you want to come back.”
Hensler has perfectly captured the magic of Christmas that families like Elizabeth and Rachel’s come back to experience year after year. Of course, half of the reason they come is to find that perfect Christmas tree, which has been growing and groomed for eight to ten years by the Hensler nursery crew.
Finding that tree begins with a free horse- or tractor-drawn tram ride back to the pines and firs, where the quest begins. For some, the perfect tree presents itself immediately. For others, the joy of the hunt takes longer. In any case, it ends with chopping it down. Back at the village, it’s baled and prepared for the trip home.
But Hensler aficionados like Elizabeth and Rachel’s family know that to leave with only a tree in tow would be to miss out on half of Christmasfest. There’s still the Christmas village to visit!
These buildings are bustling with incredible experiences like a petting zoo and refreshments provided by local organizations, like the Oregon-Davis High School Cheerleaders, the Lion’s Club, or Tri Beta Kappa.
“They provide beverages and food service,” explained Hensler. “You can pick out your tree and then warm up and get some refreshments.”
And after spending time outdoors, what wouldn’t sound better than cookies and hot chocolate?
But the real magic is in the little, sweet-smelling shops full of beautiful, hand-crafted ornaments, unique wreaths, and beautiful garlands. Hensler unabashedly contributes the allure of these buildings to his staff.
“It’s fascinating that I can walk up town and people will recognize me or they recognize the name. I get the credit, but often it’s not me, but all of the talented people that put things together… They each have a strong degree of talent to be able to visualize and put things together. It’s certainly not the high pay, but they can get high enjoyment out of seeing the things they have crafted.”
And of course, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves will be there all season long, adding to the enchantment of Christmasfest.
“People come for different reasons,” said Hensler. “They like to feel something about a celebration that we’re creating here.”
So will Elizabeth and Rachel be going back to Hensler’s this year with their parents? You better believe it. But this year is a little different. This year, Elizabeth and her husband are taking their three kids, and so continuing this tradition for the next generation.
Hensler’s Nursery is located at 5715 N. 750 E., directly off of Rt. 30. Their Christmasfest is open daily from Saturday, Nov. 23 through Sunday, Dec. 22. They can be reached at (574) 867-4192 and their website is www.henslernurseryindiana.com. Hensler’s Christmas experience is a pet-friendly environment.