FRANKFORT — This holiday season will be bittersweet for the more than 200 volunteers who take part in the annual Madrigal Dinner and Yuletide Festival at Frankfort's First United Methodist Church.
Sure, there will still be lords a leaping and maids a milking, and the boar's head will, as always, be paraded with an apple in its mouth.
But after 31 years, this Christmas spectacle is ending.
"I'm ready to let others try their ideas," said musical director Roy Nance, who is retiring next summer. "There are too many gifted people in the congregation for it (whatever comes next) not to be a success."
He said there will certainly be a Christmas program, maybe something with a madrigal theme, but it won't be the same.
Nance said the first year of the event was just one night with 70 people watching 12 singers wearing costumes borrowed from Louisville's Shakespeare in the Park.
This year, there are two nights and dozens of costumes have been hand-stitched and custom-tailored. Dinner — a feast including pork loin, corn pudding and scalloped apples — will be served for 200. Hundreds more will watch an elaborate procession and Christmas pageant in the chapel.
Nance expects the event to be standing room only. Tickets for the dinner sell for $15 and $20, while the music and pageant in the chapel are free. The proceeds support the church's food pantry.
In addition to the madrigal troupe, whose participants dress as Renaissance-era courtiers, both the children's and adult choirs perform. The 12 days of Christmas is played out by a slew of other members of the congregation.
Nance said many people who play key roles have been involved from the beginning. The planning meetings are generally just a formality. From the cooks in the kitchen to the crew that decorates a hall filled with Christmas trees, each team knows exactly what needs to be done.
Generations of families have made the dinner a part of their holiday traditions. Kids who once landed the prized job of fluffer — two king's attendants who have the honor of straightening and billowing his gold lamé cape — have their own kids in the show.
Abby Meyer, who said she can't sing or play an instrument, has enjoyed being a part of the festivities by decorating. And, while she will miss the hoopla next year, she said she will always treasure the memories.
For Nance's wife, Karen, who leads the children's choir, changing the program will allow people to spend more time with their own families during the holidays. And maybe even get their decorations up at home.
Billy Davis, who has long helped decorate, make sets and do other behind-the-scenes work, said he wonders what to do with oodles of decorations, closets filled with costumes and a forest of Christmas trees.
Meyer said she's sure there will be a place for those things.
"There will always be a Christmas show," she said.