The Holidays Come Alive!

Holidays Come Alive in Wilton Through Community Collaborations

As the sun set on December 8th, small, glowing, stars-shaped lanterns sprung to life on the trees in Wilton’s Main Street Park. These battery-lit paper creations are the work of 30 volunteers, including many WLC 8th grade art students. This “Flash Event,” scheduled for one single night, is a tease to a later return on December 17th.  Sara Spittel, one of the Wilton Main Street Association’s volunteers, who remembered the beauty of stars like these she had seen while visiting Peterborough last December, was the inspiration behind this event.

Parol LanternsThis is where our story’s community collaborations begin. Sara met with Peterborough’s Children in the Arts volunteers, Jeannie Connolly and Terry Reeves, to learn how to make the lanterns and then put together three lantern-making work sessions. Thirty intergenerational workshop attendees formed the team that created the lanterns. Many who responded to the call for star-making volunteers, started out as strangers, but ended up as friends. The only ones who came as a group were those 8th grade students encouraged to attend by WLC art teacher, Emily Hall.

Santa readingBut this story doesn’t start nor end here. It really starts with the Wilton Main Street Program and the energy of architect and WMDA president, Alison Meltzer, who has kept it alive in many iterations since its founding in 1998. Yet WMSA isn’t the only organization Wiltonians can thank for this star-lit evening that included Santa actually visiting and reading The Night Before Christmas to awe-struck children, while sitting between his fireplace and the town Christmas tree. Wilton’s holiday events are the collaborative efforts of WMSA, The Wilton Community Center, Wilton Economic Development team, The Wilton Town Hall Theater and Wilton businesses joined, this season, by Peterborough’s Children in the Arts Program.

Across the street, in Wilton’s Town Hall, many more members of the Wilton community were greeting guests to their music-filled craft-fair. I stopped at the Wild Rose Farm table where fair co-organizer Emily Hall sat with Elizabeth Brandley, an early childhood teacher at the Pine Hill School at High Mowing. They were talking to 7-year-old Lillyann Maciorowski, a student at FRES, about connecting children like her to the natural world. Here were members of two public and one private school working collaboratively together, as representatives of what “community” means in Wilton.

Gazebo with lightsEven before this Holiday Stroll opened, the first signs of Wilton’s holiday season began to appear at the new gazebo on the Riverwalk and in the town’s Gregg Free Library. Wilton’s fire department volunteers hung seasonal banners from the 6 poles along the river while other volunteers decorated the gazebo with a wreath and lights. Look closely and you can see the lights reflected in the water of the Stony Brook River.

TLibrary treeshe Wilton Gregg Free Library’s intimate rotunda has been used by various groups over the years for art exhibits. This season is no different, other than the art this time was created by Wilton businesses and WLC students, in the form of miniature Christmas trees, many with the decorations telling stories about each donor. WMSA’s Alison Meltzer was again the coordinating force behind this exhibit. Don’t miss the chance to see what 14 of Wilton’s businesses and organizations created for your pleasure under Wilton library’s oculus.

A single tree stands as a greeter to those who enter the rotunda. This is a special tree; one prepared by the Wilton-Lyndeborough Women’ Club, as are several others scattered around  town. On it are what characterize the heart of Wilton; the requests to Santa that Wilton citizens will help fill.

Wilton’s library has been instrumental in promoting the sense of community through its many programs, that burgeon during December. Then the Library’s calendar is full. Each Tuesday afternoon, since Thanksgiving, it has been hosting a “Drop-In Holiday Crafts” event. Participants make different festive gifts for giving each week. And on December 14th a Polar Express and Holiday Sing-Along for all ages will be live streamed on the library’s Facebook page for those not able to attend in person. Music, perhaps with a special surprise guest, will accompany the singers. Story Circle, on the library’s Facebook page each Thursday, will focus on learning about holidays through stories, songs and crafts.

One of the Wilton community’s most anticipated events takes place on December 17th. That night Dennis Markaverich, who has run the Town Hall Theater for 50 years, holds his annual showings of It’s a Wonderful Life. As people leave they know they will be greeted by luminaria bags, set up in the park by both WMSA and Wilton Community Center volunteers. And star lanterns will return to adorn tree branches one more time.

As Sara Spittle said when the lanterns were first lit, “Isn’t it beautiful? And this is just the beginning. We’re going to do it again next year and do it even better!”


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