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NYFS Expecting ‘Record-Breaking’ Holiday Festival Report



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Drawing a large crowd on a chilly-but-not-too-chilly Sunday, December 4, the 37th Newtown Holiday Festival offered vendors, Santa, Mrs Claus, holiday cheer, and more to benefit Newtown Youth and Family Services.

Newtown Youth and Family Services Executive Director Candace Bohr said that while final tallies are not yet in, she anticipates “a record-breaking year” as the first year fully back following the pandemic.

The Holiday Festival is the largest annual fundraiser for NYFS. Proceeds support autism programming, mental health and additional counseling services, adolescent support groups, community services, and much more for the children, teens, adults, and seniors of Newtown and surrounding communities.

“From the number of people we saw milling on Main Street and attending events, the numbers look pretty good,” said Bohr. “We’re very pleased. The ballet was sold out, every seat was filled. The Festival of Trees is a big highlight; we’re thrilled with the donations, people were very creative.”

Students from Newtown Centre of Classical Ballet & Voice offered two performances of the holiday classic, The Nutracker Suite.

Bohr also noted that the kids events were “a big draw” and there were “lots of great new vendors.”

The event has become a much-loved tradition for families — even Santa Claus brought his family this year. One of the area’s longest-running holiday events, the Holiday Festival included activities for all ages that are spread out along Main Street in three primary locations: Edmond Town Hall, 45 Main Street; Trinity Episcopal Church, 36 Main Street; and C.H. Booth Library, 25 Main Street.

The three locations were connected by an Outdoor Holiday Market featuring local food merchants and vendors selling handmade goods. Local authors, jewelry makers, a Southbury farm, and other crafty vendors were bookended by food merchants selling kielbasa and pierogies on one end and pretzels at the other, lending delicious smells wherever patrons wandered.

With added times throughout the day to help meet demand, historic trolley rides were available up and down Main Street. Bohr said many people showed up early to secure a time and most times the trolley was full.

There was a Gingerbread House Competition offered at Trinity Episcopal Church. Katie McDavid’s candied version of Mickey’s Christmas Clubhouse won the competition.

Trinity also hosted the Festival of Trees, which opened December 2, and a Silent Auction, which continues online to December 10. Businesses and members of the community donated gift baskets, experiences, products, gift certificates, and more. Shoppers can view all items and submit their bids using an online platform accessed through newtownyouthandfamilyservices.org.

The Festival of Trees featured dozens of decorated trees, wreaths, centerpieces, and gift baskets. Winning raffle tickets were pulled Sunday afternoon.

The church also hosted a new event this year, Cookies with Mrs Claus. Children were welcomed to The Johnson Room, where they helped Mrs Claus decorate her famous cookies and write a letter to Santa, which she promised to hand deliver.

Kid’s Crafts and Storytime & Photos with Princesses was presented at C.H. Booth Library. Children listened to Princess Belle read a story, did crafts with Princess Cinderella, and had their photo taken with both princesses.

There was also Superhero Academy at Edmond Town Hall Gymnasium. Also returning after a very successful first year, children were able to jump, climb, and crawl their way through an obstacle course with the guidance of Batman and Wonder Woman and become a real superhero. After completing the Superhero Academy, participants received a cape, mask, and certificate.

Beyond December 4

While the Holiday Festival events last weekend were chock full of activities with something for all generations to enjoy, the festival’s fun has not fully concluded. In addition to the silent auction mentioned above, Santa and his family are still connecting with the Newtown community with two continuing events.

*Letters to Santa: Through December 15, a North Pole mailbox will be located at The Toy Tree, within The Village at Lexington Gardens, 32 Church Hill Road.

Children can write a letter to Santa Claus and receive a personalized handwritten response back in time for Christmas. Letters, along with a self-addressed stamped envelope, should be hand delivered to The Toy Tree and placed in the Letters to Santa mailbox.

This activity is free of charge and registration is not required.

*Elf Chats Live from the North Pole will also continue, to December 16.

Children can talk with one of Santa’s elves, live from the North Pole, during a 10-minute Zoom call. This is a totally personalized experience.

During their scheduled visit, children can ask questions, see what the elves are working on, read a story, sing songs, etc. Elf Chats include a personalized handwritten letter from Santa following the chat.

Registration is required for this activity. Cost is $15 for up to two children, $20 for three children, and $25 for four children. Having more than four children during the short chat does not allow for much time for each child.

NYFS is a nonprofit youth service bureau and mental health clinic for children, teens, adults, and seniors. For over 35 years, NYFS has been committed to providing high quality human health services to promote individual and community wellness.

Specialized services include outpatient individual, couple and family counseling, substance abuse treatment services, autism and social skills programs, prevention initiatives and support groups.

Associate Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee.com.

Students of Newtown Centre of Classical Ballet & Voice offered two performances of The Nutcracker Suite during the Newtown Holiday Festival on December 4. The sold-out performances were among the offerings on Sunday at Edmond Town Hall. —Bee Photo, Hutchison
Katie McDavid’s candied version of Mickey’s Christmas Clubhouse won the Holiday Festival Gingerbread House Competition.—Bee Photo, Hicks
Susan Smith and Madison McColl put final touches on name tags and labels, respectively, on December 2, a few hours before the Festival of Trees opened to the public. A 2022 Newtown Holiday Festival event, the offering was presented at Trinity Episcopal Church and had public hours on Friday evening and much of Saturday as well as the five hours the full festival ran on Sunday.—Bee Photo, Hicks
This tree decorated and donated by Newtown Brownie Troop 50159 was one of the 95 offerings in the Festival of Trees. Visitors also had 35 silent auction lots to try to win through raffle.  —Bee Photo, Hicks
Batman and Wonder Woman talk with Ella Avellino, 5, of Stamford during Superhero Academy, another offering at Edmond Town Hall. —Bee Photo, Taylor
Mrs Claus helps Emily Swiechowicz write a letter to Santa during Cookies With Mrs Claus at Trinity Episcopal Church, part of this year’s Newtown Holiday Festival.—Bee Photo, Hutchison
The Festival of Trees was held at Trinity Episcopal Church for the second year, and featured a more open layout than last year. Festival of Trees organizer and NYFS employee Susan Smith credited fellow NYFS employee Madison McColl for suggesting that the rectangular tables go along the room’s perimeter and the round tables be placed in the center of the room. “It made all the difference. It’s much better,” Smith said. —Bee Photo, Hutchison
Cinderella and Belle had storytime, interacted with children, and acted out scenes from Disney classic stories for children attending their event at C.H. Booth Library on Sunday during the Newtown Holiday Festival. —Bee Photo, Taylor
Patrons of the Newtown Holiday Festival line up for the next historic trolley ride on December 4.—Bee Photo, Taylor
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