Very Merry Middlebury kicks off the holidays Dec. 2

MIDDLEBURY — Addison County’s shire town will be pulsing with holiday magic throughout the month of December, thanks in part to the Better Middlebury Partnership’s month-long Very Merry Middlebury. Plus various churches, Middlebury College and the town also have activities to put you in — and keep you in — the spirit of the season
Everything will add a festive air to any visit to Middlebury — from hot cocoa downtown to a fun contest where you find miniature framed illustrations by renowned children’s author Ashley Wolff at downtown businesses. And, of course, Santa will be making three visits to Middlebury to hear the wish lists from area children.
This year’s activities, under the banner “Very Merry Middlebury,” will include a special mid-week evening of shopping, too.
Very Merry Middlebury provides the opportunity for thousands of people to experience the enchantment of the season and the wonder of an authentic small town. It is all about community and connecting with neighbors and visitors.
This year’s “I Spy Contest” will center around Wolff’s original illustrations. Beginning Friday, Dec. 1, anyone can begin their hunt for 10 tiny pictures illustrated by acclaimed children’s book artist Ashley Wolff. Look for the images hidden in downtown shop window displays, fill out an entry form saying what you saw, and submit it to local merchants for a chance to win $100 of Middlebury Money.
For complete rules see the “I Spy” display in the Vermont Book Shop window. It’s free to enter and the contest runs through Dec. 31.
As you walk through downtown and want to create a holiday memory or snap a seasonal photo to send your friends and family, look for the Very Merry Middlebury holiday character cutouts. These kid-sized characters have a place for a child to poke their head through while mom or dad takes a picture. Characters include Santa, Gingerbread Boy and Girl, a Nutcracker, Snowmen and more. The character cutouts will be placed at different locations around the town of Middlebury.
Find character cut-outs placed around Middlebury to pose through Dec. 31.
Things really heat up on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 9:15 a.m. when children congregate downtown to watch Santa arrive for the season. Watch the jolly red elf ride atop a big, red fire truck as it drives over the Cross Street Bridge and north on Main Street. Children line Main Street to wave at Santa and get a wave back.
Children can have old-fashioned visits with Santa from 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon. Take note: Santa visits are at a new location this year — the Middlebury Inn!
 Line up for a spot, then sit on Santa’s lap and let him know what’s on your mind. This is free, but you’ll want to get on the list early — Santa’s awfully busy this time of year and only has a limited amount of time.
Kids who are waiting their turn — or anyone who wants some fun — will have the opportunity to take free horse-drawn wagon rides from the Inn through downtown. This runs from 10 a.m. to noon. It’s a great way to slow down and see the town at the speed our forebears did.
While you’re downtown, enjoy a cup of hot cocoa with all the fixings in the seasonal hut in Cannon Park across from Ilsley Library. Last year there were marshmallows and peppermint sticks to chose from to top your cocoa — or both. At 25 cents a cup it can be the first bargain of your shopping trip.
There are plenty of other fun things to do downtown on Dec. 2 — between shopping visits. The Sheldon Museum of Vermont History will hold its traditional holiday open house that day from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and again Sunday, noon-4 p.m., at 1 Park St. Enjoy the elaborate model train layout, carols played on the Sheldon’s 1831 piano, and a miniature Christmas tree raffle featuring 20 creative trees decorated by local artists. The exhibit “Draw Me a Story – Tell Me a Tale” will also be on view along with amusing topiaries by the Middlebury Garden Club. Admission by free will donation.
Stop by the Vermont Folklife Center at 88 Main St. to see the entrants in the center’s annual Gingerbread House Decorating Contest. And if you leave feeling inspired, head over to the Community Meeting Room at Ilsley Public Library between 10:30 a.m. and noon that Saturday and make your own graham cracker gingerbread house. This one’s free.
The Hot Chocolate Hut will be open again, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., on the second and third Saturdays in December.
If you miss Santa on the 2nd, he’ll be back on the following two Saturdays. Enjoy an old-fashioned visit with Santa on Dec. 9 from 9:30 a.m.-noon at Danforth Pewter. Then on Saturday, Dec. 16, Santa will be visiting with children from 10 a.m.-noon at Maple Landmark Woodcraft. Same as at the Middlebury Inn, these visits are free.
The Better Middlebury Partnership is also sponsoring a Free Gift Wrap Service at 44 Main St. during select Saturdays. From noon to 4 p.m. on Dec. 2, 9 and 16, bring a gift you purchased in Middlebury to 44 Main and show your receipt to get free gift wrapping.
The free gift wrap and hot chocolate hut will also be available one evening next month — Thursday, Dec. 7, 5-8 p.m. That is the special “Midd Night Stroll” promotion when shops will be open throughout town. And not only will there be shopping, but the SD Ireland lighted cement mixer will roll into downtown around 6 p.m. Covered with hundreds (possibly thousands?) of Christmas lights, it is a real site to behold. The lighted decoration on wheels will be parked downtown through 8 p.m.
Another chance to get the kids into the spirit of the month is the annual Holiday Pancake Character Breakfast on Saturday, Dec. 9. There will be characters in costume, coloring, balloons and music to go along with a pancake breakfast at the Middlebury Inn. Look for more details in the Independent as the date draws closer.
The third weekend in December will see the return of “Night Fires,” the theatrical pageant built around the approaching Winter Solstice. The show at Town Hall Theater will take place on Friday- Sunday, Dec. 15-17.
If live holiday music performances are what you crave this time of year, Middlebury offers a lot to satisfy.
The Monday, Dec. 4, performance of the vocal ensemble Amaryllis is a key example. The Renaissance vocal group will sing at St. Stephen’s on the Green at 7:30 p.m. In the same spirit, the Addison String Quarter will also perform at St. Stephen’s later that week, on Thursday, Dec. 7, in a lunchtime concert that will include Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto.”
Our local favorite women’s barbershop chorus, Maiden Vermont, will be joined by special guest Moira Smiley on Saturday, Dec. 9, for a vocal spectacular at Town Hall Theater, “Come Fly With Us.”
Middlebury College’s Mead Chapel will be the site of “Lessons and Carols for the Advent of Christmas” on. Sunday Dec. 10 — twice, 4 and 7 p.m. Modeled after the longstanding European tradition, this annual program includes Bible readings of Advent and Christmas carols performed by the college choir with the congregation. Donations collected for area charities.
Also upcoming are the “Recital of French Advent and Christmas,” Dec. 14 at St. Stephen’s; the annual “Messiah” sing at the Congregational Church on Sunday, Dec. 17, at 2 p.m., Congregational Church of Middlebury; the annual concert and carol sing at the Middlebury United Methodist Church on Dec. 19; and a final lunchtime performance at St. Stephen’s on Dec. 21, “Recital of Advent and Christmas.

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