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

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.

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.

A Bronx Tale @ Palace Theatre Oct. 22-24

The Palace Theatre in Waterbury in partnership with NETworks Presentations announces the 2019–2020 North American Tour of A BRONX TALE will launch at the Palace Theater in Waterbury with performances from October 22 through 24, starring 2015 American Idol winner Nick Fradiani in the role of Lorenzo. Tickets may be purchased at the Box office by calling 203.346.2000, online at www.palacetheaterct.org or in-person at100 East Main Street, Waterbury.

Based on the one-man show that inspired the now-classic film, this streetwise musical takes audiences to the stoops of the Bronx in the 1960s—where a young man is caught between the father he loves and the mob boss he’d love to be. Featuring an original doo-wop score, this is a tale about respect, loyalty, love, and above all else: family.

The new musical featuring a book by Academy Award nominee Chazz Palminteri, music by Oscar, Grammy and Tony Award winner Alan Menken, and lyrics by Grammy Award winner and Oscar and Tony Award nominee Glenn Slater recently announced principal casting. In addition to CT native Fradiani, Jeff Brooks will appear as Sonny, Alec Nevin as Calogero, Kayla Jenerson as Jane, Stefanie Londino as Rosina and George Vickers V as Tyrone.

A BRONX TALE, based on the original direction by two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro and four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks, will feature tour direction by Stephen Edlund with choreography by Tony Award winner Sergio Trujillo. The creative team also includes: Beowulf Boritt, Scenic Design; William Ivey Long, Costume Design; Howell Binkley, Lighting Design; Gareth Owen, Sound Design; Paul Huntley, Hair & Wig Design; Anne Ford-Coates, Makeup Design; Stewart/Whitley, Casting; and Robert Westley, Fight Coordinator. Music Supervision and Arrangements are by Ron Melrose and Orchestrations are by Doug Besterman.

Wine and Cheese Market @ Hopkins Vineyard

Hopkins Vineyard overlooking beautiful Lake Waramaug is a perfect spot to visit this autumn. If you are foodies that love wine and cheese, don’t miss the Wine and Cheese Market on October 19 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Hopkins Vineyard has teamed up with Jones Winery, Land of Nod Winery, Spring Hill Vineyards and Sunset Meadow Vineyards to host a wine and cheese tasting and market. This event will feature wine from each of the vineyards as well as cheese and food samples from a host of local vendors. Another highlight of this event are the handmade gift items from talented local craftspeople and artisans that will be for sale. If you want a bit more than cheese samples, not to worry, food for purchase will be available from the Clambaking Company. This company specializes in fresh seafood and BBQ, so there will be something to delight every palate.

Hopkins Vineyard is located on 25 Hopkins Road in Warren Connecticut. The tickets for this event are $25 per person and $12 for a designated driver. For tickets click here.

If you miss this event, keep in mind that the picnic area at Hopkins Vineyard is open daily this October. You can either bring your own picnic lunch and pick up a bottle of Hopkins wine from the shop or purchase one of the cheese platters stocked with Arethusa and other gourmet cheeses at the shop.