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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Festivities Galore: Holiday events in and around Middlebury

A holiday wreath in town.
A holiday wreath in town.

With the holidays approaching, Middlebury and other towns in Addison County, including  Vergennes, Brandon, Bristol, Salisbury and Rochester, Vt., are hosting various events to celebrate the season. The events are plentiful throughout December, with performances, competitions, parades and shopping events, and ending with a firework display on New Year’s Eve at Middlebury Recreation Park. 

Middlebury, Brandon, and Vergennes, Vt. are hosting events to encourage holiday shopping at local businesses. Middlebury’s upcoming “Midd Night Strolls” will take place on Dec. 8 and 15 from 5–8 p.m. with discounts from restaurants and retailers alike. Brandon’s “Moonlight Madness” week (Dec. 5–9) and Vergennes’ “Magic on Main” (Dec. 8) follow a similar format with discounts for holiday shoppers.

The holiday spirit was alive in Middlebury this past Thursday, Dec. 1 as town residents and college students gathered for the first Midd Night Stroll. Midd Kid Night was a collaboration between the Middlebury College Student Government Association (SGA), the Better Middlebury Partnership and Middlebury College’s Senior Administrative Team. 

On MiddKid Night, Middlebury students received $10 in MiddBucks and there were deals at nearly every business in town. While the MiddBucks were a one-night-only special for college students, the deals will continue on Dec. 8 and Dec. 15 with gift cards, raffles, coupons, specials at local restaurants such as Two Brothers Tavern and Shiretown Marketplace, discounts and live performances. 

This past Saturday, Dec. 3, Santa and Mrs. Klaus were in downtown Middlebury meeting kids and receiving letters in the Triangle Park Plaza. On the other side of Main Street, there was Hot Cocoa being sold from the newly renovated Hot Cocoa Hut for 25 cents as a special treat for shoppers in town. These events were a culmination of work by the Better Middlebury Partnership, with funding and materials for the Hot Cocoa Hut renovation courtesy of Addison County Board of Realtors and Silver Maple Construction. 

Forth ‘N Goal Sports, which sells both Middlebury College and unaffiliated sports gear on Main Street is one shop that draws substantial student participation in town. Daniel McIntosh, Forth ‘N Goal owner, said that a lot of their promotions are happening on a day-to-day basis, so the best way to catch a deal is to walk down to the store or attend one of the upcoming Midd Night Strolls.  

“[The Midd Night Strolls] are amazing and [have] had great turnout,” McIntosh told The Campus. He added that this is the time of year when Forth ‘N Goal makes money, but it can be difficult to advertise the store’s promotions. 

McIntosh said that advertising a promotion on a certain date can prevent people from coming into the store until that date, which might lead to a loss of money for the business. Foley Brothers Brewing, located in Brandon, Vt., will be at the next two Strolls, which McIntosh said he expects will probably bring in even more people. 

While not a part of the Midd Night Strolls, the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op runs a holiday promotion as a part of its monthly deal for Middlebury students. The December’s Campus Combo, which is redeemable with a College I.D., is a Free 6.3oz Tony’s Chocolonely Bar with the purchase of any Sandwich, Soup, or Salad Bar item throughout the month of December. 

Numerous performances and screenings are also being held to bring in the holiday spirit. The Town Hall Theater in Middlebury is hosting a Winter Solstice Mini-Fest on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. with $20 admission. Matt Flinner, a Grammy-nominated mandolinist, will perform with Low Lily, a musical group. The group will be playing music to welcome the winter solstice and celebrate the holidays. The Theater is also hosting a screening of the Polar Express on Dec. 11 at 2 p.m., at which it will offer hot chocolate to movie-goers. The Theater encourages attendees to come in pajamas and hints at an appearance from a special Christmas guest. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and are available at its website. 

The Middlebury College Choir will perform at “Lessons and Carols for Advent and Christmas” at the Middlebury Chapel on Dec. 11 at 4 and 7 p.m. The event will include music and readings from students, faculty and staff. Special selections for the chapel carillon will also be played at the event. Surrounding towns are hosting plays, live nativity scenes and vocal performances, all of which can be found on the Addison County Calendar of Events.

Craft events are also available this holiday season, including two events in Middlebury. The Middlebury Studio School is hosting a holiday gift card workshop on Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is free and participants will leave with a holiday card or gift tag for their loved ones. Instructors are present to assist and materials are provided. On Dec. 10, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., the Middlebury Public Library is hosting a lantern-making event to celebrate the winter solstice. Several different lantern designs are available and participation is free.

Brandon is hosting two larger holiday events, a Christmas decorating contest and a reverse parade. The decorating contest, a tradition of more than 20 years, will take place on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 5 p.m. Contestants can submit their holiday-decorated houses or be nominated into one of four categories, Residential-Traditional, Residential-Whimsical, Civic and Commercial. In a phone interview, Bernie Carr, executive director of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, described the Residential-Whimsical category as the Clark Griswold category, a nod to the variety of blow-ups and eye-catching decorations typical of this category. 

Many homeowners enter the decorating contest multiple years in a row. Particularly during the pandemic, the contest was a significant source of joy for residents. “It was especially strong during Covid-19, it gave them a chance to get in their cars and get around,” Carr said. 

Carr said his favorites from past competitions include the Brandon Town Hall, houses in the Forest Dale area on a stretch dubbed “competition row,” and the house of the Town Hall President, Dennis Marden. Decorations will be up through Christmas and are available for viewing any time.

Brandon is also hosting its third Reverse Parade, a holiday tradition brought about by the pandemic as a replacement for the Brandon Area Toy Project Party. The parade will take place  on Dec. 18 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and starts on High Street in Brandon and ends in the parking lot of the Brandon Inn. Instead of a traditional parade style, floats are stationary while viewers drive by in their cars. 

“It’s really a phenomenal event for people who have disabilities, or people with young children, or people with older parents because they can participate in something fun and bright without having the physical challenges that can sometimes happen,” said Colleen Wright, coordinator for the Brandon Area Toy Project. 

This year’s parade features Santa and children’s literary characters like Paddington Bear, Pete the Cat and Llama Llama. Local organizations contribute nativity scenes, floats with local pageant winners and anyone who shows up can participate. Before the parade, there is also a Pete the Cat party, in which children can meet the book’s characters, to celebrate the holidays and get children excited about reading. Events are free and open to all.

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“We make an effort to consciously do these things that people can attend without having to spend a lot of money because we get it,” Wright wrote to The Campus.

Wright encourages Middlebury students to come and participate in festivities, stressing that these events are inclusive and available to everyone. 

For more information and a detailed calendar of holiday events, see the Addison County Calendar of Events

Editor’s Note: Senior local editor Maggie Reynolds contributed to the reporting.