CHESTER, Vt. – The town of Chester welcomed the holiday season with a series of events on Saturday, Dec. 2, all part of the 32nd annual Overture to Christmas.
The Kids’ Craft Bazaar at MacLaomainn’s Banquet Room was packed with energetic groups of kids, who piped frosting and glitter onto cookies and painted ornaments between trips to the snack table for popcorn and apple slices. Mrs. Claus roamed the room, jingling, and several youngsters gathered in the warm corner by a Christmas tree.
As the afternoon dimmed into a flat gray twilight, an audience gathered around the nativity scene in front of Chester Baptist Church, sipping cocoa and singing along with the carols that punctuated the church’s Christmas pageant. Joining the costumed kids and grown-ups was Comet, a month-old calf. At times during the performance, Comet displayed a touch of stage fright, balking and tugging on his lead, but afterwards, the pale-chocolate calf seemed not to mind the pets and pats from a swarm of eager kids.
Presently, attention turned to the headliners: Santa and Mrs. Claus in a tractor-drawn wagon, slowly parading westbound from Chester-Andover Elementary School, escorted by Chester Fire and Police vehicles, lights blinking and sirens bleating. As the wagon rolled at walking speed past Chester Baptist, several children ran after it, clambering up the wagon’s rear stairs to join the Claus family.
As Santa’s procession continued up Main Street, Bruce Meyer stood at attention next to a power junction box on the Village Green. His miniature command post bristled with multiple heavy-duty extension cords leading to nearby light-wrapped trees. “I’m only in charge of one button,” he said modestly, indicating that his switch would turn on the lights on the east end of the green. The other, west end – which contains the town’s Christmas tree – was the real focal point, he explained.
There, Chris Meyer, Bruce’s son, served as master of ceremonies, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Claus and a crowd of excited onlookers. After a brief countdown, the lights along the entire green were lit, eliciting cheers and applause.
The darkness deepened and the cold began to feel colder. Mr. and Mrs. Claus withdrew into the Fullerton Inn, trailed by fans young and old alike, the inn’s broad porch thronged with kids hoping for a visit with Santa. Beyond, the newly lit Green twinkled merrily.