Organizations bring hometown holiday spirit in Barkhamsted

Photo by Cady Stanton.
Photo by Cady Stanton.

BARKHAMSTED — The town of Barkhamsted hosted a drive-thru holiday event on Sunday, Dec. 6, converting their annual Christmas celebrations into a COVID-safe alternative for families to get their picture with Santa Claus.
The event, put on by the Barkhamsted Recreation Department, the Pleasant Valley Fire Department, and the Farmington River Coordinating Committee River Steward, ran from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Families pulled into the town hall parking lot to greet Santa Claus, who was set up in front of a fire truck supplied by the fire department, to greet children from a safe distance. All volunteers wore masks and cones were set up to encourage social distancing for families who wanted to leave their cars and get a distanced photo with Santa. Families who had registered in advance also picked up a craft bag from volunteers as they drove through the event.
While the plans for the town’s annual Christmas events had to change with the tumult of 2020, finding a fitting alternative was important to organizers, who still wanted to put on a fun event for the community, according to Donna Bastrzycki, town recreation director for Barkhamsted.
“We figured to switch it to a drive-thru event and have it be even safer as much as possible, and have it be really fun for the families still in a contained atmosphere,” Bastrzycki said in an interview with the Phoenix. “Just being flexible with the times and seeing what’s happening.”
Typically, the town puts on an event in partnership with the Christmas in Riverton celebration but had chosen back in November to convert their festivities to an outdoor craft fair. As cases
of COVID-19 continued to rise in recent weeks and cold temperatures arrived, the town of Barkhamsted thought outside the box and converted the celebration a second time, finding a way to spread Christmas spirit to area families safely and conveniently.
“To bring some joy and happiness to families and do it in a safe way I think is important to everybody,” Bastrzycki said. “The recreation commission and all the different outlets in town know it’s important to still try to bring some happiness to the families.”
This weekend’s event was not the only time Bastrzycki and the town had to reconfigure an event on short notice to better fit COVID-19 precautions and guidelines. The town’s annual pre-Thanksgiving hike, typically led by the Recreation Department, the Farmington River Steward, and Friends of American Legion and Peoples State Forest [FALPS], was morphed into a less structured event where families were given to-go bags with snacks and supplies as well as instructions on how to take the hike on their own.
Despite the quick changes and disappointment of missing the usual festivities, the town was excited to provide a safe way to still celebrate the holiday, according to Bastrzycki.
“We’re making sure to keep everything very safe while still trying to incorporate the fun event during these difficult times for the families,” Bastrzycki said. “We just hope everybody has a fun and safe holiday time and we hope to bring a little bit of happiness during this very challenging time for everyone.”

Photos by Cady Stanton.

Cady Stanton is a freelance journalist based in Colebrook, Conn. A graduate of Georgetown University, she has previously published articles in The Hill, The Hoya and Washington Monthly.