BERRIEN SPRINGS -- Michigan's oldest courthouse is the site for the 11th annual Christmas celebration presented by the Berrien County Historical Association. The event will be held at the 1839 Courthouse Museum from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

A variety of musical groups will play throughout the day inside the authentic 1800s courthouse building.

"The music sounds wonderful in the courthouse," said Leo Goodsell, executive director. "That big open space is perfect for horns and things like that."

Goodsell said the annual program draws a large number of visitors.

"We usually get 200 to 400 people in here on that day," he said. "We are going to have a full afternoon."

Musical groups scheduled to perform include Niles Westside Brass, Andrews Academy Silhouettes, A.U. Trombone Ensemble from Andrews University, the Andrews Academy Bell Choir and the Ruth Murdock Elementary String Orchestra.

"The bell choir will play mostly Christmas music," said Dean Boward, music director. "One of the pieces is an arrangement of 'Silent Night.' Another is 'Now The Green Blade Riseth,' and we'll play several others."

The bell choir has eight members, and the children's string orchestra will have about 18 musicians at the celebration.

"The elementary will play 'Waltz of the Flowers' by Tchaikovsky, 'Christmas Lullaby,' 'Jingle Bells Hoedown,' and we might do one non-Christmas song, which is 'Can-Can,'" Boward said.

Although the celebration doesn't officially kick off until 1 p.m., visitors can visit the Log House at 11 a.m. and hear traditional holiday music performed by area string musicians.

"We do this every year," said Jan Burda, owner of J Burda Guitars in Berrien Springs. "We're a loosely put-together group of musicians that are associated with bands and other groups. Some will be students of mine, and there's always some folks that come, bring their own instruments and play with us."

String instruments played include the banjo, guitar, fiddle and mandolin.

"We'll play traditional instruments and celebrate the way people used to celebrate Christmas," Burda said.

Hot wassail will be served inside the Log House during the afternoon.

Inside the Sheriff's Residence, visitors can view the office that contains some original furnishings, and see an exhibit of historic photos of Berrien Springs.

"That will be up through the holiday season," Goodsell said.

The blacksmith shop also will be open.

"We'll have someone doing demonstrations on hammering iron and other things," Goodsell said. "It's one of the warmer buildings on the property because it has a wood-burning stove, and between that and the forge heating up, it's a warm and toasty space."

For those wanting to remember the day, the museum gift shop will sell quaint toys and souvenirs.

"Our gift shop is always geared up for people who have the desire to carry souvenirs and other gifts home," said Goodsell.

The 1839 Courthouse Museum is located at 313 N. Cass in Berrien Springs. For more information, call 471-1202.