In a tradition stretching back decades and spanning generations, McPherson area residents are invited to participate in the 40th annual Community Christmas Carol-Along, held this year from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 6 at the McPherson Opera House, 219 S. Main St.

The event is sponsored by Home State Bank, which is part of The Citizens State Bank.

"We used to have it here, at the main location of the bank, but we outgrew it," said Tiffani Elrich, vice president of marketing for The Citizens State Bank/Home State Bank.

The increasing popularity of the Community Christmas Carol-Along necessitated a change in venue, and the McPherson Opera House became the new location for the event.

"With the opera house, it's just really pretty," Elrich said. "They always have it decorated."

Laura Hale, co-chair for the Community Christmas Carol-Along, said the annual holiday event was started by the McPherson Music Club.

"It was a way to bring the community together to enjoy Christmas music and showcase local talents," Hale explained. "We have community members that make up the orchestra, play piano or who are song leaders who walk among the crowd and encourage people to sing."

Attendees can come and go during the evening, which will include sing-along caroling, performances by musicians and choirs, snacks and a visit from the most anticipated of holiday visitors — Santa Claus.

"There will be cookies and popcorn and bottled water, courtesy of Home State Bank, that you can take into the auditorium," Hale said.

"We do have people that stay the whole two hours and just sit and enjoy," Elrich said.

In between each musical performance, members of the audience are given the opportunity to sing Christmas carols together.

"I think they go through most of the carols that have ever been around," Elrich said.

Songbooks are provided at the event for those who may not recall the verses to every Christmas carol.

"We have a couple of groups — local school kids — that will come in and do a couple of numbers in between sessions of group singing," Hale said.

This year's entertainment lineup includes the McPherson Community Brass Choir (directed by Jerry Toews), the McPherson USD 418 Honor Choir (directed by Lisa Simmelink and accompanied by Janey Eilts), the St. Joseph's Angels Choir (directed by LaReta Olson and accompanied by Monica Wood) and Wichita's Northwest High School Chamber Orchestra (directed by Kathleen House).

The Community Christmas Carol-Along is free and open to all ages.

"Go caroling with your friends without having to stand out in the cold," Hale said.