Lighthouses and all things related to the maritime beacons took over Trinity Episcopal Church last weekend. It was all part of The Lighthouse Festival on Saturday, June 15, the first event presented by the recently formed organization Ben’s Lighthouse.
The weekend began quietly on Friday evening, when members of the church were joined by members of Newtown Boy Scout Troop 270 to dedicate a 20-foot-tall custom-made lighthouse that took up temporary residence in front of the historic church. That dedication was followed by a second dedication, this time to honor a permanent outdoor labyrinth that had been installed at the church the previous weekend.
Saturday’s public event was filled with events for all ages.
Artwork of myriad forms by local schoolchildren covered the interior walls of the Main Street church. Hundreds of pieces of work had been curated into place in the days leading up to the festival, including watercolors and three-dimensional designs to line drawings and paper cut-out lighthouses styled after works by Matisse.
Classes, workshops, presentations, and video screenings were offered. Displays by the US Coast Guard were set up inside and on the front lawn, and many children were delighted to meet Coastie, the remote-controlled mascot of the Guard. Many didn’t even seem to notice a Coast Guard officer a few yards away from the mechanized tug boat, radio controls in hand and a headset on his head, which allowed him to bring Coastie to life to interact with many of the youngest visitors.
Live music and theater games filled one room of the church, while Connecticut Musical Therapy offered a safe musical harbor in another. Other rooms offered presentations by The Eli Whitney Museum, EverWonder Children’s Museum, and Emerald Sketch Art Therapy, all with nautical themes.
Noted historian Jeremy D’Entrement offered a program on “Lighthouse History,” and John Tischio offered one on “Flying Dutchman Opera.”
Every nook and cranny of the church seemed to offer something.
Outdoors, there was even more going on. The 20-foot-tall lighthouse was a center of activity. Children and young adults were encouraged to use chalk or markers to leave messages on the chalkboard and whiteboard panels at the base of the construction. By the end of the day colorful, heartfelt messages covered the boards along with railings, lower panels and even the stairs.
Therapy dogs, a Maritime Aquarium touch tank, face painting, juggling demonstrations, and food were all offered on Saturday. A catering truck offered breakfast and lunch items for purchase, and volunteers from Pepperidge Farm had baskets filled with packets of — what else? — Goldfish crackers.
The choices were wide, and organizers estimate that more than 1,000 people enjoyed the six-hour event.
Even the church’s sanctuary became part of the fun when it was turned into a lighthouse theater and museum for the day. A 14-foot-tall lighthouse stood in place of the pulpit, and created a focal point for countless photographs.
Ben’s Lighthouse, the organization that presented the festival, will continue to offer community-building events, workshops, and the opportunity for youth to offer their service to others in and around Newtown.
The organization, members wrote in a letter to The Newtown Bee this week, “will provide more community-building events, age-appropriate programs and workshops for children and youth, and community-service opportunities for the older youth. Everything we do will be geared to the continued healing of our young people and will be open to all families in Newtown and surrounding towns.”