By SHERIDAN ROY
Southington’s 2018 White Christmas in the Community event went off without a hitch last Friday, combining the two tree lighting ceremonies into one for families and friends to enjoy. Both downtown Plantsville and downtown Southington sprung to life at 5:30 p.m. sharp with simultaneous holiday lightings.
“A lot of work goes into this, so make sure you check out all of the various activities,” said Dawn Miceli, member of the WCC planning committee, just before the lighting on the town green. She added that everything is donated, and tax dollars do not fund the event.
Seven-year-old Tyler Johnson, along with his younger brother Ryan and a friend from school, arrived at the town green early. He had the most important job to do—flipping the switch.
“We’ve been coming ever since they were little,” said Molly Johnson, Tyler’s mother. “Actually, one of our first Christmas cards was a photo of us all here together. We like to do the horse rides, see the firetruck, and they know Groggy Frogg always has cookies.”
Tyler said he was surprised when he found out his name was drawn to be the switch flipper. His younger brother said Tyler was doing cartwheels all around the house.
At downtown Plantsville, Gavin Landry, age five, flipped the switch to light the green.
Many holiday activities were planned in both locations. There were ornament-making craft stations, storytelling and activities at the library, a wreath-making station, horse drawn carriage rides, a trolley featuring Mr. Magic, the popular Bradley Mountain Farm goats, live ice sculpture demonstrations, roasted chestnuts, a scavenger hunt and much more.
“The new activities were a hit,” Miceli said. “We had crowds watching the live ice sculpting and people participating in the scavenger hunt. Mary DeCroce at SoCCA said people were shoulder to shoulder at the ornament-making station.”
According to Miceli, the Barnes Museum had more than 380 visitors to see the decorations and hear the Chamber singers and the new player piano. Southington Public Library boasted over 330 visitors escaping the cold, listening to a dulcimer concert or taking part in a craft event.
“The whole event and its ancillary effects really help our community kick off the holiday season in such a warm, welcoming way,” Miceli said. “We are truly blessed to have, in effect, two downtown areas that are vibrant and engaging.”
Christmas carols could be heard from a choir numbering more than 40 girls outside of the First Congregational Church of Southington. Paula Hardenburg stood in the crowd, watching her daughter and all the other girl scouts in town boast the popular holiday tunes.
“All of the girl scout troops in Southington are asked to come and sing if they’d like to,” said Hardenburg. She and her family have been to WCC a number of times. “I think it’s really cool that the town puts this event on.”
New this year, the Chamber of Commerce hosted a scavenger hunt using the large apple statues that were hand-painted over the summer for the Apples and Arts project.
“You can do the scavenger hunt in Southington, or Plantsville, or both,” said Taylor Crofton, executive director of the chamber. Staff members handed out maps, and enticed people to join in the hunt with prizes.
“This is a great event for the businesses in both locations,” said Crofton. “It’s one more reason to get patrons inside. It’s great exposure for them.”
Miceli said that the event was a huge success, and plans are already underway to add more lights and events to next year’s festival.
“I also have to add that we could not have pulled it off without the help of our volunteers and donors,” she said, adding that volunteers worked from 8 a.m. until midnight. “The next day, our volunteers were back at it, wrapping everything up.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by JANELLE MORELLI