BETHLEHEM (CT) OFFERS A FESTIVE START TO THE HOLIDAY SEASON

They call this little town in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut “Christmas Town” with good reason. Bethlehem’s Christmas Town Festival scheduled for December 6 and 7, celebrates its 39th birthday this year as one of New England’s favorite ways to kick off the season. Wherever you turn, special treats are waiting, from the town green to the post office to the Abbey of Regina Laudis and the 1754 Bellamy-Ferriday House. Some of the unique attractions continue when the festival is over. This year the opening ceremony will feature Honorary Emcee WFSB Ch, 3 news personalities, Irene O’Connor.

Vendors and More On the Green

The quaint town green, centered with a giant tree, is home to over 70 vendors with unique gift items, wreaths and delicious foods for sale. Strolling carolers and musicians help keep things lively, Santa will be waiting at the firehouse to pose for pictures with young friends, and everyone is invited to climb aboard for hayrides offered in front of First Church. Collectors can garner this year’s unique limited edition Christmas Town pewter ornament, sold only during the Festival.

On Saturday there is a 5K, Santa Made Me Do It road race, 2-mile walk and ¼ mile kids fun run at the festival. The five mile race and two-mile walk begin at 10 a.m. and registration is at Town Hall beginning at 8:30 a.m. The free kids ¼ kids Fun Run starts at 9:30 a.m.

Bethlehem’s beautiful eighteenth-century Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden will be festively decorated and open for tours and holiday cheer during festival hours. Guides will offer house tours and there will be hot cider and a scavenger hunt for children. The home is located at 9 Main Street North, information can be found at http://www.ctlandmarks.org

Hours for the Christmas Town Festival are Friday, December 6 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday, December 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, see www.christmastownfestival.com or phone 203-266-7510, ext. 300.
Christmas Town Mailings at the Post Office

The Bethlehem post office is busy in December serving the many who come every year to mail holiday cards with their unique postmarks. Visitors can select favorites among the “Christmas Cachet” designs, hand-stamp and mail these unique greetings to friends and family. The idea of the special stamps dates to 1938, when a local Postmaster, the late Earl Johnson, designed a “cachet,” a special rubber stamp featuring a tree and lettering that said “From the Little Town of Bethlehem, Christmas Greetings.” New cachets have been added almost every year since. Over 83 designs are now available and nearly 200,000 cards are mailed each year from this small post office. Located at 34 East Street, the post office will have extended hours during the festival, Friday, December 6 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Precious Crèches at the Abbey

One of Bethlehem’s not-to-be-missed jewels is open all month for visitors. The museum-quality eighteenth-century Neapolitan crèche on view in a vintage barn at the Abbey of Regina Laudis includes hundreds of beautiful hand-carved figures. Made of wood, terra cotta, and porcelain, the figures portray the Holy Family, angels, the Three Kings, merchants and peddlers, children, peasants and farm animals. This fabulous gift from artist and philanthropist Loretta Hines Howard is similar to the one Howard donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it is prominently displayed every Christmas.

A second Crèche, The Lauren Ford Crèche, created by a favorite Connecticut artist, is displayed in a farm shed near the Lower Abbey Chapel. This charming rustic Nativity scene displays figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph dressed in typical New England garb.

The Monastic Art Shop on the property offers crafts, cheeses, jams, herbal teas, flavored vinegar, herbs and honey, and all created on-site by Abbey’s residents.

The Abbey of Regina Laudis, located at 249 Flanders Road, is open to visitors daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.abbeyofreginalaudis.org

WonderSpark Puppets present The Gingerbread Man

On November 30 from 2 pm to 3 pm the Wilton Historical Society located on 224 Danbury Road is hosting a special puppet show from NY that is noted as the best puppet theatre in NYC from 2 pm to 3 pm.

The show called Run, run as fast as you can can – you can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread Man is the classic story of a little running cookie – with a Christmas twist. Kids will watch the Gingerbread Man outwit and outrun various hungry animals – and figure out what he really wants for Christmas. During the show, the children will listen, laugh, interact directly with characters, and can ask questions about puppetry and storytelling afterward. This ancient art form engages the imagination and kickstarts a love of theater at an early age. Best of all, you get a theater experience in a historic barn!

After the show, there will be a puppet craft activity. This event is $10 per person and tickets are available online. To get your tickets, click here.

Cider, Cookies and Shopping @ Fairfield Museum and History Center

This weekend, the Fairfield Museum and History Center located on Beach Street is offering several exciting promotions. On Saturday, November 30 they are celebrating small business Saturday by offering a card special.  Folks visiting the museum gift shop, which is chock full of goodies who purchase five packs of cards by Onion Hill by Kassie Foss will get one free! 

The fun ramps up on Sunday, December 1 when the museum store will give visitors a reusable Fairfield Museum shopping bag and a limited edition Woodberry pewter ornament with every purchase while supplies last. 

To add to the festivities, the Fairfield Museum and History Center is offering free cookies and cider all weekend long. The shop is located at 370 Beach Street and is open from 10 am to 4 pm with plenty of on-site parking.  Another perk is that the museum never charged sales tax! 

Save the date for the Holiday Express Train opening night on December 6 from 5 pm to 8 pm that is kicked off with the tree lighting on the Fairfield Green. The hours for the Holiday Express Train are Monday – Thursday 10am – 1pm, Special Friday Evening Hours: 10am – 7pm, Saturdays & Sundays: 10am – 4pm, December 23, 24, 26, 30 and 31: 10am – 4pm, Closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day

The Trained Eye: The Art of Railroads & Stations @ Lockwood Mathews Mansion

The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum will open a new exhibition entitled, The Trained Eye: The Art of Railroads & Stations, which will run through Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020.

A subject matter explored by some of the great artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Claude Monet, Edward Hopper, and Camille Pissarro, railroads and stations are familiar places that continue to inspire contemporary artists and impact society and the environment. “The artists featured in the exhibition, The Trained Eye,” said Ms. Ingis, “will look at this kaleidoscope of images and colors and render their own interpretation with works that range from photo-realism to post-impressionism and in a variety of media including oil, watercolor, acrylics, etchings, and photography.”

Curated by artist and Trustee Gail Ingis and Trustee Julyen Norman, the exhibition will feature artists: David Bravo, David Dunlop, Julie O’Connor, DeAnn Prosia, Helen Roman, Alexsander Rotner, Cathy Russell, Anthony Santomauro, Norm Siegel, and Rob Zuckerman.

The contemporary art exhibitions are sponsored in part by Gail Ingis and Tom Claus. The Museum’s 2019 cultural and educational programs are made possible in part by generous funding from LMMM’s Founding Patrons: The Estate of Mrs. Cynthia Clark Brown, LMMM’s 2019 Season Distinguished Benefactors: The City of Norwalk and The Maurice Goodman Foundation. The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum is a National Historic Landmark. For more information on schedules and programs please visit www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.com, e-mail info@lockwoodmathewsmansion.com, or call 203-838-9799.

Spooktacular Witch’s Dungeon!

This will be the 55th season for the annual Witch’s Dungeon Halloween Classic Movies Museum in Bristol, the longest-running exhibition of its kind started in 1966. This wax style museum is a tribute to the actors and make-up artists that gave audiences classic movie monsters. A highlight of the event is the guest appearance of Argyle Goolsby (musician Steve Matthews) plus the screening of the Mel Brooks classic movie, Young Frankenstein on real film at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 25.

The Graveyard Of Classic Ghouls sets the atmosphere as you enter the dungeon where accurate life-size figures of Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, and others are featured in 13 scenes or dioramas based on the vintage movie chillers. Many of the figures are made from the actual life casts of the actor’s faces, plus some original costumes or props, in a wax museum style setting with special voice tracks by Vincent Price, Mark Hamill, and John Agar. Many Hollywood props are on display and vintage films will be shown in the auditorium on “real” film until 10 p.m.

While waiting for each wax museum tour, you can view actual film props, actor’s life casts and movie posters, or step into our film room, to view classic silent horror movies, shown on film, not video. Featuring far more life-size figures & original movie props than we have ever had on display before! Figures based on the classic films of Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi and more.

The location for Witches Dungeon is 98 Summer Street in Bristol at the Bristol Historical Society. The hours are weekends in October, Friday through Sunday evenings, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Oct. 25-27 and Oct. 31- Nov. 3. The Museum is not recommended for children under age 7. A $6 donation is suggested. For additional information visit http://www.preservehollywood.org.

Haunted Lantern Stroll in Bridgeport Oct. 24

The Barnum Museum is offering a “Wicked Lantern Stroll” on Thursday, October 24 at 7 p.m.with historian and author, Michael Bielawa. Stroll through the streets of Bridgeport to unravel the mysteries that this vibrant city hides – especially during the Halloween season.  Bielawa is versed in the paranormal and specializes in the study of New England’s shadowy past.

This slightly macabre tour, whose tales are based in fact, is perfect for Halloween jitters and thrills!  Participants will visit scenes of suspected hauntings, Victorian-era murders and unexplained phenomena. These sites are so centrally located and close to one another that they will give you the shivers! 

The walk begins in the People’s United Bank Gallery located at the rear of the Barnum Museum on 820 Main Street in Bridgeport. Tickets should be purchased in advance and are $10 per person for Barnum Museum Members and $20 for non-members. Make sure to bring your camera along to document the area’s paranormal activity!  After the walk, participants are invited to the museum for cider and refreshments. It should be noted that this program is not recommended for children under 12. For your tickets click here.