By Lisa Capobianco
Four-year-old Jack Brinker of Southington widened his eyes and jumped for joy when he saw Santa Claus during the 25th annual Christmas in the Village in Plantsville. After whispering what he wanted this year in Santa’s ear, Jack said he loves toy airplanes, and he hopes to receive one for Christmas.
Jack’s father, Mike, said this was a moment his son has waited for all year round, so they decided to jump at the opportunity once they heard about the event.
“We came to Christmas in the Village to see Santa,” said Brinker as the sound of a musical Christmas quartet echoed in Fire Engine Company 2. “We have lived in Southington for most of our lives.”
The event also attracted resident Stephanie Rodriguez, who recently moved to Southington with her five-year-old daughter and 21-month-year-old son.
“It is a great way to have some fun in our free time,” Rodriguez said. “There are a lot of family-oriented activities in town.”
After watching Santa lead the tree lighting ceremony, parents and their children lined up to see old Saint Nick in a matter of minutes in the firehouse, where firefighters handed out soup to guests. Members of the Polish Falcon Club in Plantsville also volunteered their time at the event to conduct the Plantsville Village Association raffle, which included a variety of donated raffle items.
“We always like to give back to the community,” said Ken Decker, the treasurer of the Polish Falcons. “This is the first year we are doing this.”
Children also lined up to see Mrs. Clause at CMC Computers, where she distributed candy and posed for pictures. Nine-year-old Isaiah Zagorski said he felt excited to attend the event for the first time with his younger cousins.
“I have never been to it and wanted to see what it was all about,” said Zagorski, as DJ Gary Collins played Christmas tunes right outside CMC Computers.
Other businesses in downtown Plantsville also volunteered their time to spread holiday cheer during the event. Faith Living Church kept visitors warm with a bon fire while roasting chestnuts and handing out apple fritters as well as popcorn. Dean’s Stove and Spa offered face painting, conducted by Puttin’ on the Ritz, and Faith Baptist Church distributed candy canes at Calvanese Realty while the Plantsville Pharmacy handed out cookies. Children and their families also satisfied their appetites at Yi Hing Restaurant, which handed out shrimp chips.
The festivities at Zingarella Pizzeria also caught the attention of children as they participated in a snowball toss fame while sipping hot cocoa and listening to Christmas carols performed by the a Cappella group of Cheshire High School. For Michele Zommer, the sister of Zingarella’s owner Mark Zommer, seeing children and their families attend the event brought back memories of her childhood around the holidays.
“My brother got excited about getting things going,” said Zommer, referring to all the family-oriented activities that took place at her brother’s business. “This event is so nostalgic.”
The 31st annual Holiday Hospitality Night also brought back memories for families and also created new ones. Seven-year-old Madison Furniss anticipated the event all week, full of excitement since she became the official “switch flipper,” for the lighting of the town green.
“I am so thankful for this town,” said Furniss, jumping up and down in excitement.
Furniss was one of a total of 141 entries for the switch flipping contest, conducted by the Southington Parks and Recreation Department. The department submitted the children’s entries into a spreadsheet and sorted them alphabetically by the child’s last name, before assigning a number to each name. Once each number was written on a folded piece of paper and tossed into a Christmas bag, Town Manager Garry Brumback chose a number at random.
“This is the first year our department has run this contest, and we are very happy with the response we got, so this may become a new annual tradition,” said Julia Berardinelli of the Parks Department
Although a mix of rain and snow lingered during the event, the forecast did not keep Southington resident Chris Babicz and her children, Matthew and Jessica away from enjoying an annual tradition.
“We wanted to see the holiday lights,” Babicz said. “We come here every year.
Sponsored by the Merchants of Downtown Southington Association and the Greater Southington Chamber of Commerce, Hospitality Night featured a horse drawn wagonette ride as well as open house at different local businesses. Children had the opportunity to write letters to Santa at TD Bank and also met with him at the Bank of America. That same night, the Barnes Museum hosted its 31st annual Open House, showcasing holiday décor and excerpts from 52 diaries of the Bradley Barnes family while displaying hundreds of artifacts throughout the historical homestead.
“I like the community atmosphere,” said Trisha Pizzitola, who has attended Hospitality Night for the past three years with her young son. “It is just a great experience for the kids.”