Mystic Seaport's 70th annual Community Carol Sing spreads holiday cheer

Jamie Spillane, right, directs the Mystic Seaport Carolers, foreground, and the crowd gathered on the McGraw Quadrangle during the Community Carol Sing at Mystic Seaport, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Jamie Spillane, right, directs the Mystic Seaport Carolers, foreground, and the crowd gathered on the McGraw Quadrangle during the Community Carol Sing at Mystic Seaport, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Mystic — If "the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear," then Buddy The Elf would have been overjoyed with the hundreds of people who descended on Mystic Seaport Sunday for the 70th annual Community Carol Sing.

Dressed in traditional red Santa hats, reindeer antlers, elf hats, Christmas tree hats, and more, visitors filled up McGraw Quadrangle on a cold afternoon and belted out some of their favorite holiday carols.

With hot chocalate or cider in hand, young and old sang and danced along with classics such as "White Christmas" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" for more than an hour, all under the direction of Jamie Spillane, director of choral studies at the University of Connecticut, and the Seaport Carolers and Brass. 

"This is the Seaport Community Carol Sing and we create community,"said Spillane, who has been a key part of the event for more than three decades. "It's performance art with a little interactive."

The choir and audience sang more than 20 classic carols and became especially giddy when they reached "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bell Rock." For 'Rudolph' children flocked up to the main stage, while "Jingle Bell Rock" saw visitors eagerly bust out their own jingle bells.

Spillane said the increased number of jingle bells was another reminder of just how much things have grown, from a scarce few when he started to dozens now.

With a fully costumed Mr. and Mrs. Claus walking around and even festively dressed dogs, there was an abundance of holiday cheer. New to the festivities this year was a holiday hat contest that saw a Santa hat with antlers and a red Rudolph nose, Christmas tree hats with lights and a hat made of greens and flowers, winning awards for the best holiday hats. 

Carols were not the lone holiday event at Seaport Sunday as visitors could attend a holiday craft workshop, climb aboard historic Seaport vessels or venture into the planetarium for a  program entitled "The Star of Bethlehem," which explored the winter skies. Visitors were also offered free admission into the museum with a donation of one non-perishable canned good.

As contagious as holiday cheer was, the underlying note throughout the festivities was that of community tradition.

Be it familiar shouts during "Jingle Bells,"  laughter during "Mary's Boy Child," or just recognizing faces from prior visits, there was a sense of camaraderie throughout and reminders of holidays past at the Seaport.

The Patty family, now of East Lyme, has come to the community carol event since the 70s. Nancy and Larry used to bring their son Dean when he was younger, and now all three of them bring Dean's son Kyle, 8.

Even when Larry and Nancy lived in Georgia for a few years they managed to make it to the Seaport for the celebration.

Now they make a day of it, enjoying the nearby shops, the planetarium, and of course singing.

"We come a little early," Nancy Patty said. "I like the community coming together and singing."

"Of course you do, you always do!" interjected Kyle Patty to laughter. 

"Well it's the Christmas spirit," Nancy replied.

People participate in the Community Carol Sing on the McGraw Quadrangle at Mystic Seaport, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
People participate in the Community Carol Sing on the McGraw Quadrangle at Mystic Seaport, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Patty Sullivan, left, her sister, Kathy Holowaty, right, both of East Hartford and their friend since high school in New London, Donna Chaffee, of North Stonington participate in the Community Carol Sing on the McGraw Quadrangle at Mystic Seaport, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017.  This year for the first time there was a Holiday Hat Contest at the event and the three later won the group prize.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Patty Sullivan, left, her sister, Kathy Holowaty, right, both of East Hartford and their friend since high school in New London, Donna Chaffee, of North Stonington participate in the Community Carol Sing on the McGraw Quadrangle at Mystic Seaport, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. This year for the first time there was a Holiday Hat Contest at the event and the three later won the group prize. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Men the Mystic Seaport Carolers sing a song during the carolers holiday concert in the Greenmanville Church before participating in the Community Carol Sing at Mystic Seaport, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Men the Mystic Seaport Carolers sing a song during the carolers holiday concert in the Greenmanville Church before participating in the Community Carol Sing at Mystic Seaport, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
The crowd participates in the Community Carol Sing on the McGraw Quadrangle at Mystic Seaport on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
The crowd participates in the Community Carol Sing on the McGraw Quadrangle at Mystic Seaport on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

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