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Annual Holiday Festival Offers A ‘Trolley’ Good Time For Guests

The 28th Annual Holiday Festival on brought both a touch of tradition and something new to guests this year.

For the first time, the festival on Sunday, December 1, benefiting Newtown Youth & Family Services, (NYFS) welcomed guests to board one of the three planned trolley tours of Main Street where Town Historian Dan Cruson pointed out architectural details, spoke of residents who lived and worked there, and told anecdotes about Newtown’s benefactress Mary Hawley, for example, and her link to many historic structures in town. The trolley looped around The Pleasance at the intersection of Route 302 and made its way slowly uphill where the flagpole loomed.

With his eyes toward the past, Mr Cruson provided a brief oral history of Main Street’s homes and residents. People crowded the trolley seats to watch historic buildings, including the C.H. Booth Library, Edmond Town Hall, Inn at Newtown, and more, slide past.

Mr Cruson noted the many taverns that had once occupied the now-quiet residences, revealed which buildings had been relocated from their original positions, and how, in 1983, a law passed protecting the flagpole’s location — squarely in the center of the street where Church Hill Road intersects Main Street. As the trolley moved on, its riders waved at Santa Claus as he added his splash of jolly cheer in front of the Edmond Town Hall. The trolley tour took a final turn at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the head of Hannover and School House Hill Roads. The monument was originally called the Peace and Liberty monument, Mr Cruson said.

And not to disappoint, he assured guests that ghosts of former residents still linger in several older homes dating back to the late 1700s.

Minutes later riders stepped off the trolley in front of the Edmond Town Hall, where Newtown High School Singers led carols. The Singers performed in several locations as they moved around on Main Street.

Inside the town hall, from the gymnasium in the basement to the theater balcony several floors above, the building bustled with holiday activity.

Downstairs were various local vendors making early holiday gift sales at the craft fair. NYFS Executive Director Candice Bohr and Board of Directors member Jesse Rosenschein welcomed shoppers. “So far, so good; we are pleased with the turn-out,” Ms Bohr said.

Crafters and vendors included Cider Mill Designs, Biscotti Etc, Kathi’s Creations, the Newtown Orchestra Parents Group, which was raising funds to support the orchestra, and Girls Scout Troop 50651, which is continuing to raise funds for a trip to Europe. Scouts Katie Wojcik, Grace Clark, Lauren Henchcliffe, and Mary Kate Halmose stopped to pose for a quick photo while working the booth Sunday.

Upstairs in the Alexandria Room, a Victorian Tea was flooded with guests between performances of The Nutcracker Suite danced by The Newtown Centre of Classical Ballet’s Malenkee Ballet Repertoire Company. Curtains opened at noon and 2 pm. As the first show ended, many theatergoers rushed upstairs for refreshments and tea.

Centered on the Alexandria Room’s small stage, a host of piano students, including Kirsten Fallon, performed. With her was instructor Patsy Beddoe-Stephens. Standing behind a table and providing refreshments was Cally Peterson. Rushing past her to the adjoining kitchen, another young volunteer, Sophie Satmary, was clearing trays.

A floor below, ballet dancers felt the relief of finishing one performance, but stretched and practiced on stage for the upcoming 2 pm show. Leading the show for the first time was the ballet company’s new artistic director, Tori Gozzi. She said the first performance “was great.” Referring to the many ballet students in the show, she said, “They have worked so hard, they’re so happy. I could not have asked for a better day.”

Back outside was Santa, who heard a whispered Christmas wish from 4-year-old Clare Csaszar’s lips. Soon, she and her parents joined the many residents strolling the sidewalk toward the C.H. Booth Library, where other displays awaited them.

Using hard candies, gumdrops, candy canes, cotton candy, crackers, pretzels, loads of frosting, and more, six gingerbread house contestants hammered together entries for the Holiday Festival Gingerbread House Contest. Each house followed the “Storybook” theme for the contest.

Lori Pizzoli’s entry based on the beloved children’s storybook The Little Engine That Could turned into “The Little Engine That Wasn’t” when on the way up to the second floor, Saturday, November 30, a door into the landing opened unexpectedly, whacking the display, and derailing the gingerbread train completely.

The houses were on display on the library’s main level until 4 pm Sunday, when NYFS judges awarded prizes, including an honorable mention awarded to “The Little Engine That Could” — because it tried.

In the Adult//Family Division the Lundquist Family took first prize for the detailed barn scene from E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. “Zuckerman’s Farm” barn was built from frosted homemade gingerbread slabs, with the roof tiled in small overlapping chocolate crackers. Charlotte the spider, Wilbur the pig, Templeton the rat, and Fern, Wilbur’s owner, were all confectionary creations, as was the goose in the loft (complete with eggs) and the sheep inside the barn. Topping the entire extravaganza was a pig weathervane. The Lundquists were awarded a three-month membership at Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut.

Jocelyn Bazuro created Cinderella’s castle “with a little help” from mom, Kirsten Bazuro. The castle took second place in the Family Division, and received a gift certificate from Hollandia Nurseries.

Third place in that division went to Dianne Orlando, for “Snoopy Came Home.” Ms Orlando received a Mother Earth gift certificate.

In the Youth Division, first place went to Girl Scout Troop 50040 for its creation of “Whoville,” from How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss. A Danbury Lanes gift certificate was the prize.

“Hagrid’s Hut” from the Harry Potter series, by Daniel Reilly, won second place and a CoCo Key Water Resort gift certificate.

They huffed, and they puffed, and John III and Sabrina Boccuzzi blew into third place with their crafting of “The Three Little Pigs.” The Boccuzzis won a gift certificate to Sports Center of Connecticut.

Downstairs in the library meeting room, residents expressed delight as they viewed the many trees, wreaths, and other holiday decorations donated to the Festival of the Trees.

“We had some unique festival trees this year,” said Ms Bohr, like the one decorated with eggs from Budapest, and a tree of homemade gift cards. There were a lot done in the country style, too. Overall, the Holiday Festival was “Phenomenal. The trolley tours were a big success, so we hope to bring those back next year. The theme for the gingerbread houses worked out well, we had a full house at the Victorian Tea this afternoon, and there were 200 people at the 2 pm performance of The Nutcracker,” Ms Bohr said.

Newtown Savings Bank presented the 28th festival this year.

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