'Tis the season: The Holiday Stroll will roll once again
Lights in the trees, sidewalks full of people, horse carriages clip-clopping down Main Street, carolers singing, shop doors open and merchants welcoming folks with smiles and refreshments — it’s time for Ridgefield’s 18th annual Holiday Stroll.
The village will bloom into festive life — music, magic shows, ice carving, caroling, carriage rides — this Friday evening, Dec. 1, from 6 to 10, and all day Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
And while other towns now organize similar — and similarly named — events, the Downtown Ridgefield association’s Kathy Graham and Bill Craig say there’s no comparison.
“We have so many people coming, we have so many wonderful events,” said Graham. “Nobody has what comes with our event, which is our Main Street.
“It’s magical, it’s beautiful — the whole ambiance of the lights on the trees and everyone is being greeted warmly in the stores. Other towns can copy it, but we’ve got this built-in Main Street that they can’t copy. I don’t really think that they can compete with our event. They’re not voted the No. 1 town in Connecticut, are they?”
“People plan — the Holiday Stroll is on their calendar every year,” Craig said. “It’s an event everybody looks forward to.”
“Parking is free,” added Craig. “No Parking Authority working.”
So is just about everything else.
“The events we sponsor, the things we have, it’s free to public,” said Graham.
Ridgefield’s Holiday Stroll attracts lots of people — organizers don’t have exact numbers.
“It’s thousands, but there’s no way to know,” Graham said. “The streets are packed.”
A door counter in Craig’s store tells how many visitors Craig’s Fine Jewelry gets.
“On an average, 1,250 people in four hours,” he said.
Ridgefield police’s public information officer, Capt. Jeff Kreitz, offered a similar estimate.
“The event is extremely well-attended,” he said. “I would say that the number is somewhere in the thousands.”
“A lot of people have been contacting us because they want to be part of the Stroll, which is great — it has name recognition and they want to be part of it,” Graham said.
The singing toy soldiers that Downtown Ridgefield is bringing back this year will perform both Friday (from 6:30 to 9:30) and Saturday (4 to 7). They will be joined by four other groups strolling and singing in the village: the Ridgefield Chorale (Friday, 6:30 to 9:30); Ridgefield High School’s a cappella group The Nightingales (Saturday, 2 to 6:30), carolers from the Ridgefield Boys & Girls Club (Saturday, 2 to 3), and the Ridgefield High School Chorus (Saturday, 5 to 7).
Events coincide with the Holiday Stroll throughout the weekend.
The Holiday House Tour, a fund-raiser for Tiger Hollow stadium’s maintenance, is Friday, Dec. 1, starting with breakfast at the Community Center’s Lounsbury House at 8:30, followed by visits around town to see beautiful homes and holiday décor. For more information, email Jean Grevers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ridgefield Symphony conductor Eric Mahl will lead “Interpreting Music Through Tchaikovsky,” an interactive talk based on Tchaikovsky’s fifth symphony — which headlines the symphony’s Dec. 2 concert program — at the Ridgefield Library Friday from 1 to 2:30.
The library also plans an opening from 5 to 8 Friday for a show of artwork by Martha Talburt’s students — many from Founders Hall.
The Keeler Tavern’s “Christmas at the Tavern” is 5 to 9 Friday. Admission to the festively decorated tavern is free, youngsters can play an ‘I Spy’ game, and they’ll sell hot mulled cider and donuts.
ROAR and Weichert Realtors will be teaming up again to present “Roll in the Holiday Stroll With a ROAR” starting at 6 p.m. The event, located at Weichert’s 388 Main Street storefront, aims to give homeless pets a home for the holidays.
Stroll Saturday includes the Boys & Girls Club’s Breakfast with Santa pancake breakfast and Santa’s Workshop from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Tickets are $8 per adult, $6 per child, with a $30 family cap. People may register at www.bgcridgefield.org. Santa’s Workshop includes holiday games, arts and crafts, and letters to Santa, and people may bring cameras and take photos with Santa.
The Rotary will be there sponsoring “Amber Alert” registration designed to help find missing children.
The Stroll’s biggest crowds are Friday evening, and organizers are adding to Saturday’s agenda.
“We have so many people that come into town on Friday, and a lot of them are with children, and they’re filling out wish lists.”
Gift shopping is awkward with spouse and kids right there.
“So we’re hoping they’ll come back on Saturday to do additional shopping,” Graham said.
The Saturday hours extend into the evening.
“When they come back on Saturday, there’s additional things to do. We’re going to have a lot more events and singers and carolers,” Graham said.
Among the Holiday’s Stroll’s signature attractions are the horse-drawn carriages.
This year carriage rides will be offered — free, as always — Friday night from 6 to 9:45. They’ll go between the library and Lounsbury House.
“You can get on at either location. You’re only riding it one way,” Craig said.
“You have to walk back, so you visit the stores.”
Allegra Farms, an East Haddam livery stable that houses the Horse Drawn Carriage and Sleigh Museum of New England, provides the carriages.
“We’re getting five — four buckboards and one carriage,” said Graham. “We get the buckboards so a lot of people can fit on it. Then there’s the romantic carriage thing.
“Santa and Mrs. Claus will be riding,” she added.
At Lounsbury House, the Lions Club will help people express thanks to people in military service with “postcards to the troops.” It goes from 6 Friday “until the cards run out,” said Graham. And “they have 1,000 postcards.”
Lounsbury House is the site for non-profit groups.
“Rather than having them set up tables all over town,” Graham said. “It’s cold, but there’ll be so much traffic on the sidewalks, we want to keep the sidewalks clear.”
Non-profit groups planning to sign people up or sell things include Ms President US, A Better Chance of Ridgefield, the Evelyn C. Peeler Children’s Holiday Gift Fund, the Thrown Stone theater group, and the RHS ski and cheer teams.
Lounsbury House will have music from Fourte, a string quartet of student musicians.
Ice sculptures, magic tricks
Magician Tom Pesce will perform at Town Hall twice Friday, with shows at 7 and 8:15.
The Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance will have “live mannequins” in its Main Street windows Friday, and RMAC-n-Cheese will offer music and refreshments at the library.
Ridgefield’s SPHERE organization plans free jewelry-making workshops at 421 Main Street on Friday from 5:30 to 9:30 and Saturday from 10 to 4.
There will also be silent screenings of It’s a Wonderful Life between 4 and 10 p.m. in front of Town Hall.
Ice sculptor Bill Covitz returns and will work Friday from 6:30 to 9:30 in the green in front of Prime Burger and Toy Chest. One ice creation reflects the Stroll’s Polar Express theme.
“He’s going to be carving a large train engine — its number’s going to say 06877 on the side of it,” Graham said. “And on Saturday from 1 to 3 we’re having someone dressed as a train conductor.”
People may bring cameras and take pictures with the conductor.
Another photo-ready ice sculpture at Town Hall will be a giant picture frame with the center empty, so people can pose in the picture frame with Town Hall, festively decorated by volunteer Michele Mueller, behind them.
There’ll be 13 smaller ice sculptures, sponsored by different businesses.
Eight are involved in a new “Can You Hear the Bell Polar Express Scavenger Hunt” from 12:30 to 3 on Saturday.
People can go to Books on the Common and pick up a passport to be stamped at eight businesses among those with ice sculptures.
“Then when you get all eight of them, you take it to the train conductor at the Polar Express and you can enter into a raffle,” Graham said.
Toys for Tots
The Ridgefield Police Benevolent Association is joining with the Toy Chest and Ridgefield’s Marine Corps League detachment to collect new, unwrapped toys for the Marines’ Toys for Tots program.
Their “Stuff a Cruiser” toy drive is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. near the Toy Chest store, which will be offering a 10% discount on toys purchased for the effort.
Bach to Rock music school will provide music Saturday in front of Town Hall with a DJ from 10 a.m. to noon, then live performances until 2.
Updates on Holiday Stroll plans will be on Downtown Ridgefield’s Facebook page, Graham said.
“Everything is paid for by member of Downtown Ridgefield,” she added.
The idea is to get people into town to see all that the local stores offer and include Ridgefield in their holiday shopping.
“Hopefully, they’ll be shopping at the merchants and eating in the restaurants,” Craig said.
The Stroll features more than just Downtown Ridgefield members.
“In the past, stores who haven’t joined us that night are open, anyway, because they know there’s going to be a million people in town,” Graham said.
“Look for the blue banners,” said Craig. “The blue banners will be in the stores who are participating members — the blue banners are the businesses who paid for the event.”
And Downtown Ridgefield invites everyone to come and enjoy.
“It’s like a huge party,” Graham said.