Volunteers planning some holiday magic in downtown Bristol

Artists, Santa and businesses working together to create a downtown ‘winter wonderland’

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 11/19/20

The Bristol Christmas Festival Committee had to get creative when planning its large-scale events in the era of COVID, so this year’s celebration has a little of the familiar, a lot of the new …

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Volunteers planning some holiday magic in downtown Bristol

Artists, Santa and businesses working together to create a downtown ‘winter wonderland’

Posted

The Bristol Christmas Festival Committee had to get creative when planning its large-scale events in the era of COVID, so this year’s celebration has a little of the familiar, a lot of the new and different.

Working closely with downtown businesses, the committee is hoping to bring a festive winter wonderland to the shops and storefronts downtown. The centerpiece will be “Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole” — a live scene which will be unveiled this Saturday, Nov. 21, at 10 a.m.

Complementing the live workshop will be an array of professionally painted windows displaying falling snow, glistening trees and friendly faces ice-skating by. The windows will be transformed by local artists Chelsey Barton-Karnes and Tom Dugan, with the assistance of business owners adding their own touch of holiday cheer.

“I have been speaking to all of the restaurants and eateries in town to let them know about the Santa’s Workshop project,” said Christmas Festival volunteer Dave Scarpino. “In particular, we discussed how we can work together to get the community to support their businesses when they are visiting the workshop. As people come to this event, we are hoping that, to the extent that businesses can offer things outside, or have special offers, that they will do that and draw people in.”

“With the closure of so many businesses, the Christmas Festival committee is dedicating themselves to bringing people into town for the businesses. It’s another way of making sure Bristol is a beautiful destination this season,” said Lori Cruz, the event’s assistant chairwoman and “chief elf.”

Ms. Cruz spoke of the genesis of this COVID-safe celebration. “Festival Chairman Mike Reilly and I were talking about how can we showcase Santa without a mask, without plexiglas, as we were looking at this vacant space [the former Dunkin’ Donuts on the corner of Hope and State streets].”

They contacted property owner Aidan Graham with their idea, and he was glad to help. “Aidan was so gracious in allowing us to come in and do this,” said Ms. Cruz. “A natural setting for Santa is his workshop, and kids will be able to watch Santa work.” Then they can walk around to the side of the building, where a picture frame has been painted on the glass, so that kids can be photographed with Santa.

“As much as children will love this, it’s for the adults, too,” said Mr. Scarpino. “There’s a lot of nostalgia, and a lot of old familiar details in this display.”

In 2020, taking part might look different; but, there will be something for everyone, whether it means walking or driving through downtown, stopping to take photos in front of Santa’s workshop, joining one of the many virtual events from home, or even seeing the big man himself preparing for Christmas Eve inside his workshop.

In addition to the festive décor and wintertime magic outside, select businesses and restaurants will partake in raffle drawings of both monetary and tangible prizes hosted by the Bristol Merchants Association. The drawings for the winners will take place on Facebook Live on the Bristol Merchants Association’s Facebook page.

“We are so excited to present this to the community,” said Ms. Cruz.

Like @BristolChristmasFestival on Facebook and visit www.ChristmasBristolRI.com for more information.

The season schedule

  • The Holiday Preview is downtown on Friday, Nov. 20, from 6 to 9 p.m.
  • Santa’s workshop will be open at the corner of Hope and State streets on Saturdays, Nov. 21 and 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; on Fridays, Dec. 4 and 11, from 5 to 9 p.m.; on Saturday, Dec. 12, from 2 to 6 p.m.; and on Saturday, Dec. 19, from 3 to 7 p.m. Peep in the windows of Santa’s elaborate workshop as he gets ready for Christmas Eve.
  • The Grand Illumination will be on Facebook Live on Saturday, Dec. 5, from 6:30 to 7 p.m.
  • “A Christmas Storytime” will be on Facebook Live on Saturday, Dec. 12, from 6 to 7 p.m.

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