Norwich Winter Fest to light up more than City Hall this year
Norwich ― The annual Winter Fest will feature some big — and organizers hope, bright — changes this year, with the holiday parade shifting to evening for the first time as a lights parade traversing downtown streets on Saturday, Dec. 3.
The Winter Fest kicks off the night before, with the 31st annual Light up City Hall event from 5 to 6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2, featuring live music, performances, children’s activities and an appearance by Santa Claus to lead a countdown to turn on the City Hall and plaza tree lights.
Winter Fest Norwich Events Organization leaders said they have talked for years about moving the annual parade to the evening so it could become a lights parade, with groups encouraged to deck their floats with flare. As the region emerged more from the COVID-19 pandemic darkness, they decided this was the time for a lights parade.
“What would be a great theme?” Norwich Organization Treasurer Miria Gray said, recalling the planning session back in September. “When you think about lights at Christmas, you think about National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation house.”
Floats and parade participants will be entered into a contest with prizes to be awarded in several decoration categories.
“We just wanted to bring something new and different o the community,” festival committee co-chair Sonja Buccheri said. “This was a great year to change. It worked out really well with the theme that is the big gawdy lights.”
With the time shift for the parade, the street festival will be held prior to the parade. Festival activities begin at 4 p.m. with streets closed for vendors, food snack trucks and pedestrians. Children’s activities will be held in the Franklin Street parking lot across from Foundry 66 and a Wally World children’s playhouse village will be set up in Castle Church’s Jubilee Park on lower Broadway.
The parade, led by grand marshal John Shishmanian, recently retired Norwich Bulletin photographer, will step off at 6 p.m., with a tight route along downtown streets, The parade will start on Main Street in front of Otis Library, head up Franklin Street, turn left onto Willow Street, left onto Broadway in front of City Hall, continue on lower Broadway, left onto Main Street to end at the starting point just past Otis Library.
Gray said the committee has heard a little “pushback” for the short route, but it will allow the festival to be centralized in downtown, where visitors can eat dinner at local restaurants, attend the street festival and watch the parade. Several businesses will pass out free hot chocolate.
Castle Church will have a free showing of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” inside the church following the parade.
All activities are free. First Friday events with art gallery openings will continue in the downtown area following the lighting ceremony.