By JEN CARDINES
Crowds weathered the early rain on Friday, Dec. 2, coming out in force in Southington and Plantsville for the first attempt at White Christmas in the Community. The rain came in waves as four-year-old Danny Patterson walked onto the main stage off the town green to kick off the festivities.
Patterson was the “Flip the Switch” contest winner this year, chosen at random to be a featured guest in the ceremony. Town Councilor Dawn Micelli urged the crowd to cheer him on despite the weather.
“I’d like for us to all help Danny flip the switch,” Miceli told the crowd. “We’re going to count you down, starting at 10, and when we get to zero, you’re going to flip that switch…”
The crowd chanted, “Zero.” Patterson threw the switch. Then, as if it was a burst of Christmas magic, the crowd was bathed in white lights and the weather cleared.
For years, the Merchants of Downtown Southington (MDS) and the Village of Plantsville Association (VPA) held separate holiday events, but the organizations came together this year to connect both communities. Since the early months of 2016, Rob Flood partnered with Miceli from the MDS, along with Joanne Alfieri and Dolores Fanelli from VPA, and the group worked tirelessly to make the night a success.
“We had some small technical glitches to work out, but other than that, for the first try it went very well,” said Flood.
Everything that happens each year during the separate events went on as usual, but free transportation was provided to and from Southington and Plantsville. A trolley bus travelled up and down Route 10, with Mr. Magic on board with tricks up his sleeve to entertain passengers. Town Council chair Michael Riccio drove a large tractor towing a hayride along the linear trail, which was decorated with luminary villages.
To really authenticate the Christmas spirit, horse-drawn carriages were available to ride as well. The average wait to get on the rides was 30 minutes.
“Next year we’ll have to go to a third ride and add another trolley,” Flood said.
By combining the two associations, turnout increased at the participating shops. Fanelli was inside Zingarella where children were writing letters to Santa and making ornaments.
“Up here it’s certainly very busy,” Fanelli said, noting the filled tables that lined the room. “The firehouse is very active, they do a great job. They have a Santa Claus, raffles and hot dogs, treats for the kids…they do everything.”
The indoor activities drew larger crowds because of the early rain, but people were still seen wandering the streets with cups of cocoa and treats that the stores provided. Many community groups volunteered, working with the children’s crafts, directing traffic, handing out goodies, and more.
The SHS Key Club, Rotarians, Girl Scout troop 66856, SHS Cheerleaders, the platinum sponsors, town officials, Southington Police Department, and all businesses involved participated to make the night run smoothly.
In Southington, various craft stations were in place, Santa was in Bank of America, a Christmas tag sale and activities occurred at the First Congregational Church, raffles, face painting, ornament making at SoCCA, and caroling all happened. Just off the town green, people milled around the Barnes Museum campus, enjoying the grounds and taking advantage of free tours of the decorated home.
At the same time, Plantsville visitors wandered the closed off streets, going door-to-door at the downtown businesses. Each one offered different activities, from crafts and treats to visits with Santa and Ms. Claus. Zingarella’s offered a snowball toss. VNAM offered balloon animals and face painting. Hop Haus offered board games, and Plantsville Pharmacy offered tasty treats.
Officials said that this was just the benchmark and are hopeful for continued success, and better weather, in the upcoming years.
“We’re trying it out, we’re going to see what happens,” said Fanelli.
Photos by John Goralski (Click to Enlarge)