Season starts with Festival of Wreaths

MIDDLEBURY — There’s nothing like a wreath on the door to foster holiday cheer, so Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater is likely to be bursting with holiday spirit at the Festival of Wreaths this Saturday.
This year marks the return after a one-year hiatus of the holiday mainstay, which draws hundreds of people to bid on wreaths decorated by local businesses and artists as a fund-raiser for the Mary Johnson Children’s Center. This year, area businesses and individuals will decorate and donate 120 festive wreaths for the event.
Barbara Saunders, co-director of Mary Johnson and one of the festival organizers, said she’s excited that the event is back, after a much-needed break.
“We thought we needed, after 18 years, a year to regroup and figure out how to take it forward,” she said.
Saunders said this year does bring changes — after many years at the Mahaney Center for the Arts at Middlebury College, the Town Hall Theater is a new venue for the festival, which will also feature food and live music. As usual, though, the event coincides with the Very Merry Middlebury holiday kickoff downtown, which features lots of family activities.
Saunders said the Mary Johnson staff and the 20 or so volunteers who work the event have high hopes for the new spot.
“We’re very excited about being downtown,” said Saunders. “We think it’ll be easier to get there, and maybe bring out some new people.”
The wreaths themselves were delivered early this week to local businesses, hotels, restaurants and individuals, and come Saturday there will be a wreath to interest just about everyone.
“All aspects of the community will be represented,” said Saunders.
Some of the big-ticket wreaths each year, she said, are the ones with a ski theme. Ski areas around the state donate downhill and cross-country passes, which show up on two of the wreaths. And each year the Middlebury College men’s and women’s hockey teams sign hockey sticks and donate game tickets to go on two more wreaths.
Saunders said the Festival of Wreaths is the single largest fund-raiser for Mary Johnson each year, and it helps provide additional programming for the children who go to the Middlebury center and its afterschool programs around the county.
“It gives us additional funding to do some things we might not be able to do within our operating budget,” she said. “It’s more flexibility.”
So this year, organizers are hoping to see a good turnout at the Town Hall Theater.
“It’s a beautiful start to the holiday season, and a really fun time for everybody,” said Saunders.
The Festival of Wreaths will be at the Town Hall Theater Saturday, Dec. 3, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Admission is free, but a $3 donation per family is suggested.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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