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.
Volunteers and family members answered the call to help unload trees on November 29 after a truckload of holiday trees arrived for the Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue benefit tree sale. The annual activity, chaired again this year by company members Michael Burton and his daughter Kelly, will continue daily until Christmas Eve — or until all the trees are gone. The company sold its first tree before all of this year's inventory was unloaded from the truck. Justin Birtwell, who arrived with his son and nephews, picked out their Christmas tree last Friday afternoon.
Caroline Previdi was the kind of child who was always thinking of others. “She realized at a very young age that she was blessed, and she wanted other children to be able to have gifts underneath their Christmas trees,” said Sandy Previdi, Caroline’s mother. For two years, when she was just 4 and 5 years old, Caroline would visit St Rose Church and donate all of the money from her piggy bank to The St Rose Knights of Columbus Toy Chest. After their daughter was killed on 12/14, Sandy and Jeff Previdi asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to their daughter's favorite charity. The Knights of Columbus recently renamed the program The Caroline Previdi Toy Chest, to honor the young girl's generosity.
Western Connecticut State University sits so quietly in the center of Danbury that we sometimes might be tempted to take it for granted, and in so doing, miss out on its depth as a powerhouse in the fields of theater arts and music. All you need do to discover this, however, is to take in one of their annual musical productions at the Berkshire Hall Theater. Not only are these an entertainment bargain, at $20 a ticket, but they are in fact, spectacularly good — filled with professional caliber singing and dancing, and staged with technical perfection in the areas of costumes, lighting, and sets. A case in point was the recent rendition of the Kander, Ebb and Fosse musical Chicago, which was offered last month. While it was directed, choreographed and designed by members of the faculty, the production showcased the talents of the many dozens of students who are attending Western to major in theatrical performance.
Award-winning children’s author Patricia MacLachlan said she became very concerned the first time she heard indirectly from her colleague, illustrator and former Sandy Hook resident Steven Kellogg, following the 12/14 tragedy.
“It wasn’t until Steven sent a note through my agent and his, saying, ‘I think I have lost the optimism to do what I do.’ And that struck me as a horrible thing to have happen,” Ms MacLachlan said. A short time later she was appearing at a school in Connecticut when a second grader asked Ms MacLachlan if she was afraid to come visit because of the shooting. “I said, ‘Are you?’ and he said ‘Sometimes.’ That’s when I realized he was losing his optimism, too. So in a way, I wrote [Snowflakes Fall] a little for myself, a lot for that little boy, a little for Steven, and for anyone it might [help through the healing process],” Ms MacLachlan admitted.
UPDATE, December 6, 2013: The Ram Pasture tree lighting has been postponed to Wednesday, December 11, due to the weather of Friday, December 6. Same schedule (festivities to begin at 6:30, tree lighting at 7 pm). **** Newtown will host tree lighting events this weekend. Sandy Hook Village will host its 12th Annual event on Saturday night; and the Fourth Annual Hawleyville Tree Lighting will wrap up the weekend in Hawleyville. Entertainment will precede each of the events, which continue traditions in three areas of town. The tree lighting in Sandy Hook will inaugurate a Norway spruce that was planted in May, and the Hawleyville event will again feature Santa arriving via fire truck.
Elizabeth O’Brien, a former Newtown resident who now lives and works in Hawaii, received an email from a co-worker on Tuesday, November 19. The co-worker had attended a conference over the previous weekend, and met Scarlett Lewis, the mother of 12/14 victim Jesse Lewis. Ms Lewis recently published a book, "Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope & Forgiveness" based on an unexpected journey, inspired by a simple three-word message the had scrawled on their kitchen chalkboard shortly before he was killed. Ms O'Brien, who had planned to teaching her students about what happened in her former hometown, was "floored," she said, when she learned that Ms Lewis had agreed to visit her school to speak to students. The concept of choosing love, she said, has inspired her career.
Dressed in vibrant red costumes, Kylee Raiano and Julia Finegan held a playful pose while between them, Monique Dubois spun a delicate parasol. The Newtown Centre of Classical Ballet’s Malenkee Ballet Repertoire Company has been in rehearsals recently, preparing for their annual performance of The Nutcracker Suite. The dancers will take the stage for two Sunday, December 1 performances, at noon and 2 pm. The condensed version of the full-length ballet will also include a story narrative. The five-hour festival also includes a Victorian Tea and craft boutique at Edmond Town Hall, a gingerbread contest and raffle of decorated trees, wreaths and holiday decorations at C.H. Booth Library, and the new addition of trolley tours narrated by Town Historian Dan Cruson, will return to Main Street on Sunday, December 1. The family friendly offering is a benefit for Newtown Youth & Family Services.
For the 2013 Newtown Choral Society (NCS) winter concert, Director Mary Andreotta chose the theme of “Home for the Holidays.” “I wanted to create the feeling of comfort, familiarity, and pride of being home in Newtown for the holidays,, for the choir and for our audience,” said Ms Andreotta, who created a program that includes a number of “familiar and accessible music,” as well as two original compositions by local composers. In keeping with the theme of this year’s concert, the audience will also be treated to “Ave Maria” by Dan Coffman of Bethel and “It’s Christmas in Newtown” by Newtown resident Phil Crevier. The annual performance will be mid-afternoon on Sunday, December 8, at Newtown Meeting House.