Holiday Stroll is on; A ‘huge event’ full of fun

A scene on Main Street after the tree lighting last Friday evening. —Scott Mullin photo

A scene on Main Street after the tree lighting last Friday evening. —Scott Mullin photo

The Holiday Stroll will take place this evening as scheduled.

The possibility of showers will not change plans for the popular event that can draw thousands of people to the center of town.

Meanwhile, what tricks does Santa have up his red sleeves this year?

Townspeople will have to wait until Saturday around 1 p.m. on Bailey Avenue to find out, as organizers for this year’s holiday stroll are hush-hush on the holiday secret.

“We need people to be there for the big surprise event without knowing what it is,” said Kathy Graham vice president of Fairfield County Bank, who organizes Downtown Ridgefield’s seasonal events.

“It’s going to be entertainment like you’ve never seen before in Ridgefield.”

Other than the fact that Santa is involved and that the event “won’t last very long,” Ms. Graham doesn’t want to reveal too much else — it would ruin the surprise.

“We recommend people show up early,” she explained. “It will probably go from about 1:04 to 1:08 — it’s a very quick event.”

While silence is the word surrounding Saturday’s mystery event, holiday planners are happy to talk about this year’s stroll, which will include traditional favorites on Friday night such as horse-drawn carriage rides, live ice sculpting and a holiday boutique. All run from 6 to 10 p.m.

Added into the mix will be strolling toy soldiers, who will sing around town Friday from 6:30 to 9 p.m., and donations for the Holiday Stroll’s Gift for Kids, which will continue to be collected at town hall Friday night before the boxes are filled, packaged and distributed Saturday at 10 a.m.

“The toy soldiers are the new thing this year,” Ms. Graham said. “Every year we try to do something new to make sure the stroll doesn’t get stale or repetitive. We are excited to welcome these professional performers to our big event.”

Perhaps the biggest addition to the lineup this year is the stocking stuffer preview event that takes place 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, which helps extend the stroll into a three-day event.

Organizers from Downtown Ridgefield are encouraging residents to visit participating merchants, who will be raffling off a stocking that is stuffed with merchandise from each individual store.

There will also be holiday cocktail offerings at local restaurants that begin later around 5 p.m.

“Because it’s a school night, we’re encouraging Thursday to be more of an adult-date night — get dinner in town, shop local before the big crowds show up on Friday,” Ms. Graham explained. “We decided to have this opportunity for adults and to extend the stroll into a third day because it has gotten to be such a huge event for our town.”

After Thursday night’s kick off, all eyes will be on the Friday night’s ceremony, which will kick off with the ceremonial ringing of the bells from St. Stephen’s Church that will chime throughout the village.

At the tree lighting festivities Friday, seven-year-old Reese Kubick visited with Santa in the Town Hall. Santa will return this weekend for the Holiday Stroll. —Scott Mullin photo

At the tree lighting festivities Friday, seven-year-old Reese Kubick visited with Santa in the Town Hall. Santa will return this weekend for the Holiday Stroll. —Scott Mullin photo

A carriage carrying Santa and Mrs. Claus will prance  down Main Street.

Simultaneously, the Ridgefield Chorale will be strolling and singing in front of merchants’ stores throughout the village.

They will get an assist from three toy soldiers, who embark on their first-ever march.

“They are professional singers from New York City,” Ms. Graham added. “They look like Buckingham Palace guys, not like the Nutcracker outside town hall.”

The entertainment does not stop there.

World-class ice sculptor Bill Covitz, a former Ridgefield resident, will place his pre-carved work all around town, including the ice throne at town hall.

From there, he will set up shop on the lawn next to Toy Chest, where he will create a massive ice sculpture of elves and Santa from 7 to 9.

“He does the best work I’ve ever seen,” said Bill Craig, co-chairman of the stroll. “It’s really remarkable.”

Some of the stroll staples haven’t changed, including pizza and movie night that the Keystone Club will host from 6:30 to 9:30 at the Boys and Girls club for ages 5-11; Ridgefield Music and Arts Center (RMAC) will have its annual acoustic and acapella concert in front of the firehouse on Catoonah Street; and the Lions Club will promote letter writing to soldiers in the vacant Swizzles location.

Also, the Ridgefield Library will host a pair of programs, including the Holiday Harmony with the Sunshine Road, which will be presented for kids eight and under in St. Stephen’s North Hall from 6:30 to 7 and 7:30 to 8. Dramatic readings of seasonal short plays and stories will take place for adults at the library from 7 to 10.

Stroll planners hope everyone has enough energy for Saturday, when kids will have the opportunity to pose with Santa outside of town hall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. before he makes his way over to the “big surprise event.”

There will be more caroling — provided by students of the Wooster School — and juggling from members of the barn that will help set the mood for shoppers.

The holiday boutique at the community center, which opens Friday, will run 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, while the Boys and Girls Club hosts its annual gingerbread house festival from noon to 4.

The Keeler Tavern Museum is offering free tours of the festively decorated museum on Saturday from 1 to 4.

The Rotary Club is hosting an Amber Alert registration in town hall from 10 to 1.

While all the entertainment will provide the holiday spark necessary to make the stroll a success, it wouldn’t be possible without the sponsorship of all Downtown Ridgefield businesses, who help put on the $25,000 event that welcomes thousands of people each year.

“Businesses will be welcoming people into their store and holding individual events for shoppers that will be catered,” Mr. Craig explained. “What’s beautiful to see is people walking the streets, looking in the windows, going into stores and just enjoying downtown — that’s what I love seeing.”

“All of this is paid for by Downtown Ridgefield merchants who are always the first in supporting local teams and charities throughout the year,” he continued. “In return, we’d like to see our residents choose these merchants as their first shopping destination for the big holiday shopping season — you’d be amazed at what the downtown has to offer.”

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