Arts & Leisure
Santa and carolers will usher in the holidays in Middlebury
MIDDLEBURY — Holiday magic returns to Middlebury with a festive and fun-filled month of December, complete with visits from Santa, horse drawn wagon rides, special event shopping nights, a breakfast with holiday characters, an “I Spy” contest with prizes, the Hot Cocoa Hut and free gift wrap for items purchased in Middlebury.
The month will be packed with activities that will spill over into November. Very Merry Middlebury festivities kick off on Saturday, Nov. 30, with the opening of the Hot Cocoa Hut on Cannon Park across from Ilsley Library and the Sheldon Museum. Grab a cup of cocoa for just 25 cents between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. While you’re shopping downtown that day, take note that there’s free gift wrapping at IPJ Real Estate on Main Street, and a raffle for Middlebury Money.
Holiday festivities turn somber with the lighting of Memory Trees on Dec. 1 and 2. First, on that Sunday, the East Middlebury Memory Tree will be light in a ceremony at the East Middlebury Post Office at 4 p.m. The public is invited to join in for songs of the season and the dedication of the memory tree, followed by light refreshments at the East Middlebury Methodist Church across the street. On that Monday, all are welcome to the Lions Club Memory Tree Lighting in the Middlebury village at 5:30 p.m. at Courthouse Square across from the Middlebury Inn. This is a free event that is open to everyone.
Very Merry Middlebury returns to upbeat festivities on Thursday, Dec. 5, at midday with the kickoff of the Thursday Noon Advent Concert Series at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on the green. On this date, organist George Matthew Jr. will play a wide selection of seasonal organ works. Like all three concerts in the Thursday holiday season series, this will run from 12:15 to 1 p.m. Also on the schedule for Thursday concerts at St. Stephen’s: Dec. 12, the Addison String Quartet, directed by Emily Sunderman, will debut a new work by local composer Jorge Martin called “Lux Aeterna”; Dec. 19, singer Jack DesBois will perform a combination of favorite “Messiah” bass solos paired with traditional ballads, folksongs and hymns.
Meanwhile, back on Thursday, Dec. 5, there will be more activity in downtown Middlebury, when the Better Middlebury Partnership and downtown merchants host the season’s first evening holiday shopping experience — Midd Night Stroll. This event, which will be repeated the following Thursday, Dec. 12, will feature various pop-ups, tastings, specials, giveaways and free gift wrapping from 5 to 8 p.m. both nights. A list of promotions and specials will be available soon online at experiencemiddlebury.com.
One special event is a Midd Night Stroll Makers Market. This will feature 12 local artisans selling their beautiful handmade items at a festive market at Bundle, located at 51 Main St. This Makers Market will take place on Dec. 5 and 12, along with the rest of the Midd Night Stroll, and repeat one last time on Thursday, Dec. 19, 5-8 p.m.
Locals of all ages are readying their gingerbread house submissions for competition at the Vermont Folklife Center. It’s too late to enter, but you can see all the beautiful “houses” at an opening reception on Friday, Dec. 6, 4-6 p.m., at the center headquarters at 88 Main St. Come see the “Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” gingerbread creations along with other non-themed entries. Visitors to the exhibit are invited to vote for their favorite entry to receive the “People’s Choice” award.
A BIG SATURDAY
Seasonal activities heat up on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 9:30 a.m. when children congregate downtown to watch Santa arrive for the season. Watch the jolly red elf and a collection of holiday characters parade north on Main Street and around to the Middlebury Inn. Children are invited to line Main Street to wave at Santa and get a wave back.
Children can have old-fashioned visits with Santa from 10 a.m. to noon at the 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.
While you’re downtown, why don’t you stop at the Congregational Church of Middlebury to listen to carolers hold forth with the songs of the season on the front steps from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. It’s free. You should also make time for a visit to the Hot Cocoa Hut (only 25 cents a cup!) between stops at the local shops.
A perennial favorite on the first full weekend of December is the Holiday Open House at the Sheldon Museum of Vermont History. In addition to the elaborate model train layout (a spellbinding experience for kids and adults alike), there will be carols played on the Sheldon’s 1831 piano, bell ringing by the Weybridge Parish Bells, and a Miniature Christmas Tree Raffle. The raffle features 16 creative trees decorated by local artists. The historic Judd-Harris House at 1 Park St. will be decorated by the Middlebury Garden Club. Admission to the Holiday Open House — which is Saturday, Dec. 7, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 8, noon to 4 p.m. — is by donation. For more information and the complete holiday train schedule, call the Sheldon Museum at 388-2117 or visit HenrySheldonMuseum.org.
Other activities going on Saturday, Dec. 7, are the Middlebury Farmers Market Annual Holiday And Winter Market from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Mary Hogan Elementary School and the Middlebury Studio School’s annual Holiday Pottery Sale at Middlebury Studio School at 2377 Route 7 South, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; it’s a fundraiser to benefit the non-profit school.
Whew — busy day!
Middlebury College’s Mead Chapel will be the site of “Lessons and Carols for the Advent of Christmas” on Sunday, Dec. 8 — 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. Music will be provided by the Middlebury College Choir and those in attendance; George Matthew Jr. will play a carillon prelude on the bells in the Mead Chapel tower. The program is an hour and a half. Donations collected for area charities.
MORE SANTA VISITS
If you miss Santa on Dec. 7, he is making more stops in Middlebury this season. On Saturday, Dec. 14, look for Santa in his workshop — also known as Maple Landmark Woodcraft on Exchange Street. Come grab a cookie, say hi to Santa, and tell him what you want for Christmas! His sleigh will touch down at 10 a.m. and he departs at noon. By a little trick of Santa magic, he will be talking with children and gathering their wish lists that same day, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Danforth Pewter Workshop on Seymour Street.
Then Santa will make one last stop in the shire town. He will be greeting children at the Middlebury Farmer’s Market at 530 Exchange St., on Saturday, Dec. 21, 9 a.m.-12:30 a.m.
There will be some non-Santa creatures at the Very Merry Middlebury Character Breakfast hosted by the Middlebury Inn on Saturday, Dec. 14. There will be a pancake breakfast and a cast of holiday characters. There will be two seatings: at 8:30 and 10 a.m. The charge is children $8 and adults $12. Tickets are available for purchase online at experiencemiddlebury. com.
Also on Saturday, Dec. 14, there is a chance to see a living cuddly creature. Paul Laud will bring his Bernese mountain dog Janie to the Vermont Book Shop for a special children’s storytime. Laud is the Shelburne author and illustrator of a new rhyming children’s picture book, “The House that Santa (Almost) Missed,” and Janie is one of the stars. When a Christmas Eve snowstorm threatens Santa’s visit, a dog (Janie) and cat scheme to save the holiday, leading to an icy adventure and a lesson about the true meaning of Christmas. Come see and hear them at 38 Main St. from 11 a.m.-noon.
Halfway through the month and there is still more going on in Middlebury.
Bundle, at 51 Main, will host a Rock, Paper, Scissors, Glue event on Sunday, Dec. 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. This will be an all-ages craft studio time; there is a $10 suggested donation. Come enjoy a beak from the hustle of the holidays and get creative with your friends.
Thursday, Dec. 19, will see the annual Lights of Love Tree Lighting Ceremony and Open House at Homeward Bound, the Addison County animal shelter. Friends of Homeward Bound are invited to share their holiday cheer with shelter animals, enjoy seasonal delights, view the Lights of Love names on the big screen, and participate in a tree lighting ceremony that honors pets, past and present. The ceremony at 236 Boardman St. runs from 6 to 7 p.m.
Town Hall Theater will stage a special holiday show for “mature elves only” that is sure to tickle the funny bone. “The Santaland Diaries” is a retelling of the David Sedaris stories adapted by Joe Mantello, directed by Margo Whitcomb and staring Jason Lorber.
This irreverent anti-holiday attraction tells the story of a struggling actor, strapped for cash, who takes a job as “Crumpet the Elf” at Macy’s Santaland — and his hilarious observations are more naughty than nice. Brimming with Sedaris’ wicked humor and observations, this snarky holiday tale is perfect for those who prefer their eggnog spiked.
The show will be staged Friday, Dec. 20, at 7:30 p.m.
Spread the word and fill Middlebury with shoppers this holiday season. For more information, visit experiencemiddlebury.com.
Very Merry Middlebury is coordinated by the Better Middlebury Partnership.
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