Celebration Of Lights And Song Weathers Challenges

New London Main Street's annual holiday event will take place on Saturday

Although it was one event New London Main Street named as something that might have to be skipped this year, the organization has managed to put together an annual downtown holiday festival.

The Celebration of Lights and Song will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Parade Plaza. Activities will conclude at 5 p.m. with a tree lighting, although promotions at the plaza’s skating rink will continue into the evening.

Renee Fournier, vice president of the New London Main Street Board of Directors and chair of its Public Relations Committee, said the organization had to look at what was feasible for an event given cuts in municipal funding. She said the organization was allocated $40,000 for the 2013 fiscal year and the first half of this money arrived later than usual.

Fournier said that in addition to budget constraints, New London Main Street is working to develop a strategic plan and restore staffing levels, including an executive director following the departure of former chief executive officer Penny Parsekian. At the organization’s annual meeting in May, Parsekian said the Celebration of Lights and Song might have to be canceled due to budget issues.

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Fournier said discussions continued on how to maintain the event. She said these determined that the event was crucial both for promoting the Rink at Parade Plaza, which has started its second season after opening at last year’s event, and for providing a Christmas tree, since the city does not oversee the management of such events.

The final lineup of activities scales back some activities, including the elimination of the children’s reindeer and elf parade down Bank Street. Other features were kept with little or no cost, including performances by Eastern Connecticut Ballet dancers from The Nutcracker who appear for free to promote the annual performance at the Garde Arts Center.

“What we did was we basically took a $2,500 event and turned it into a $250 event,” said Fournier.

The organization also put out a call for residents to donate a community Christmas tree, with the offer that the Department of Public Works would cut down the tree and put it up at Parade Plaza. Tammy Daugherty, administrator for Mayor Daryl Finizio, said the tree was donated by resident Russ Dinoto.

The event schedule includes:

  • 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. – The Snow Angel human sculpture in the window of Pinc! Boutique.
  • 4 p.m. – Official start of the event. The Sugar Plum Fairy arrives for a meet and greet at the Thames River Greenery while Santa Claus arrives at the skating rink. Welcome remarks take place at the rink at 4:05 p.m.
  • 4:15 p.m. – Figure skating demonstration at the rink.
  • 4:35 p.m. – Ice hockey demonstration at the rink.
  • 5 p.m. – Community caroling led by the ISAAC swing choir, a performance by Joseph Salcedo, and a tree lighting.
  • 5:30 p.m. – Open skate, with regular admission and skate rental but vouchers available for future visits to the rink.

Fournier said New London Main Street’s board of directors has been working hard to support the organization and that the Fall Food Stroll was the most successful one in the history of the biannual event.

“The board really has been stepping up in this transition…We’ve got some really passionate board members who are putting in a lot of extra time,” she said.

New London Main Street welcomes volunteers to begin setting up the event from 2 p.m. to 3:45 p.m., act as greeters and rink ambassadors from 3:35 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., act as Santa’s helpers from 3:45 p.m. to 5 p.m., and break down the event from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Two people are needed for each function, and anyone interested in participating may contact lillchamp24@aol.com to volunteer.

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