Holiday Lights, 2020
The Bridge of Flowers will spring to life in the dark winter season, beginning on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2020, when new lights and decorations and a “nature tree” will be officially “lit,” thanks to a grant to the Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association (GSFABA) from the MassDevelopment Commonwealth Places Program. The new lighting for the Bridge is part of a broader campaign being financed by the grant to enhance the appearance of the Village in the towns of Shelburne and Buckland during the holiday season and throughout the year.
Although the gates to the Bridge will remain closed as they have since last spring due to the pandemic, beginning on the night after Thanksgiving and continuing through February, the Village landmark will shine with sparkling stars attached to its arched exterior and a festive “nature tree,” adorned with seeded pine cones, miniature bird houses, and seed “cookies” that will attract and feed the wintering –over bird populations here. Fourth-grade students of Lillian Whitsett at the Buckland Shelburne Elementary School are making the ornaments and plan to hang them on the tree themselves.
“We have so many people to thank for this very special community effort to make the village of Shelburne Falls a more attractive destination, especially in the dark months of the winter season,” said Annette Szpila, who chairs the Bridge of Flowers Committee. She cites the leadership of Shelburne Falls resident Whit Sanford in acquiring the $30,000 grant to the business association, whose goals are twofold: to revitalize the downtown with lighting and seasonal decorations, and to provide sustaining grants for local businesses hard hit by the downturn in tourism due to the virus Covid 19.
The Bridge of Flowers is partnering with the SFABA in an effort to raise the $30,000 in matching funds required by the grant. “The Bridge is such a vital presence in this community and its closure has had a real impact on the economy of the whole area,” observed Szpila, “so it made perfect sense for us to pitch in to help raise the match.”
Those who worked on the grant proposal – The Shelburne Falls Initiative Work Group, chaired by Sanford - have set up a crowdfunding site – www.patronicity.com/shelburnefalls -where donations may be made to meet the match. The deadline for donations is end of December, 2020.
Sanford echoes Szpila’s praise for all those who have volunteered their time and talents to make the downtown revitalization happen. She singles out some members of the working group for special recognition. Among them, local pottery artist Molly Cantor and Josh Simpson, master glassblower and owner of Salmon Falls Gallery, “contributed their wise counsel in shaping the grant proposal,” she notes.
Another person whose skills have proved “invaluable,” Sanford says, is Nan Parati, famous locally as the former owner of Elmer’s in Ashfield and equally famous nationally for her production work. Parati designed the new decorations for the Bridge as well as others for the downtown to be installed in future. She was aided by a team of volunteers who worked with her in setting up two holiday trees in town (one on Conway Street and one on the corner of Bridge and Deerfield streets) and in installing lights and other decorations on the Bridge. Nick Doneilo, Parati says, “has been the can-do person for us,” ably assisted by his father, Steve Doneilo, Paul Gifford of Shelburne, Darryl McCloud, Mike Scranton, Ben Collins, and Son Treme. The tree for the Bridge of Flowers was donated by Nancy Hoff, owner of Ashfield’s Hardware, and “a real fan of the Bridge of Flowers.” Rob Taft of Ashfield built the sturdy stands that hold the three trees in place, she added.
A number of shop and restaurant owners are expressing their support for the brighter look of the Bridge of Flowers by agreeing to keep their doors open until 8:00 p.m. on Friday nights, beginning November 27 and continuing through the holiday season. The extended shopping hours provide a safer substitute for the popular one-night festival called Moonlight Magic. Traditionally held on “black Friday,” it was cancelled this year to avoid large gatherings that could spread the contagion. Masks and social distancing will be observed throughout the town in all shops and restaurants.
Nan Parati, a regular columnist for the Greenfield Recorder, says she is working on a story that “really explains what this grant is all about.” So watch for it. Meanwhile, she says, “be sure to stop by the downtown any night beginning Friday, November 27, 2020 - to enjoy the lights on the Bridge of Flowers, and the trees - and the feeling of hope in the air.”